"When I first met my mother, she couldn't pronounce my name."
Luce tells the story of liberal-minded couple, Amy and Peter Edgar, who are challenged to reevaluate the poster boy persona of their adopted son after they discover he has written a troubling essay for a school assignment.
It boast a premise that is interesting to say the least. Roughly 40 minutes into the movie and I was dying to see where things were going. In the early goings, I felt the talents of Tim Roth were slightly underutilized, but the intellectual and verbal back and forth between Octavia Spencer and newcomer (at least to me) Kelvin Harrison Jr., were wondrous to behold. Naomi Watts is also very good, but not memorable. Luce is certainly a thinking mans movie in some regards, thanks to some riveting dialogue. The mostly cool temp cinematography is nothing mind blowing, however there are some tracking shots and lighting that’s worth some praise. Most of the film in the early goings gives us a cool, dreary blue lighting scheme, which I thought came off as perfect at some points but unrealistic at other times. Also near the beginning, I felt some of the dialogue regarding Luce and his pragmatic background was a little exposition heavy. As the film progressed, it was clear that there’s more than meets the eye with certain characters involved. One of the most unsettling scenes features a minor character recalling the events of a party, that ends with her reasurring that things are fine, while a single tear rolls down her cheek. There’s another great shot that we only get treated to for a couple seconds where, Naomi Watts is seen through an aquarium.
I honestly feel I could’ve used a bit more story. Or perhaps the story was there, just not engaging enough. There’s a great deal in backstory that is explained to us via dialogue that would’ve been better off seen. When you just hear about it, it can get confusing and lessen its impact on the story. There are times when the main plot gets bogged down with unclear, and seemingly aimless subplots and I’m not sure what to make of the way things wrapped up. I kinda feel like there was no actual resolution. Despite the complex "looks-can-be-deceiving" themes presented and stellar cast, I ended up getting a bit muddled in the plot. The film is presented as a thriller, but provides little to no real payoff by the end. Luce is worth a watch, but given then less than satisfying student take down of a teacher, ends up ultimately disappointing. I like the way the ending was sort of bookended with speeches being delivered. The very end reminds me of the "This is America" video by Childish Gambino. I'd say the 6.9 rating on IMDB is more than fair, and it's worth mentioning I saw this film on a Delta Airlines flight across country. I've heard airlines have no qualm taking liberties with editing out certain things, that may have altered the overall viewing experience, but not likely.
Luce comes recommended for fans of the cast, but that's about it seeing as how no one involved gives their best. It is not a Ricky Nixx film.
Director: Julius Onah
Writers: J.C. Lee
Stars: Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth