DISCLAIMER: This review MAY spoil some things for you. The ending is not given away but some character developments and the conclusion of those developments are analyzed. Read at your own risk.
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Screened on 10/25/11 at the Paramount Theatre, Austin, TX.
Fresh off a wonderful screening of ‘The Artist,’ my fellow festival goers and I all seemed prepared for another great film. The atmosphere inside the Paramount Theatre was electric.
Sadly, this didn’t last long.
Onto the screen comes ‘The Woman in the Fifth’ with perhaps one of the most forced and glum introductions from an employee of the festival I had seen all week. This should have been the first sign to get up and run out of the theatre as fast as I could. Unfortunately, I did nothing of the sort. What a mistake that was as I was in for the worst film I have seen at the festival or all year for that matter.
‘The Woman in the Fifth’ is a “thriller” with few thrills and even less sense to offer. Ethan Hawke plays the creepy and annoying Professor Tom Ricks, who arrives in Paris to stalk his wife and his six-year-old daughter after leaving his professorship in America. Within hours, Ricks meets the mysterious Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) who leads him into a strange romance that sets up the main story.
Throughout the film, characters are introduced that mean little to nothing to the story (if you can call it a story) with some just disappearing from the picture altogether. Most notably, the employees of the grungy hotel Ricks lives in. Ricks develops a romantic relationship with the hotel bar maid, played by the beautiful Joanna Kulig, and also joins forces with the hotel’s owner (Samir Guesmi) to help fund his stay with employment.
However, in different ways, both characters fall off from the story and have nothing to do with the main story in the end. This only causes confusion and further plunges the film into the depths of nonsense.
Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that Ricks is consistently shown working a mysterious job in the creepy tunnels of Paris that seems to have no importance to the main story. The job, set up by the hotel owner, and the minimally thrilling mysteries surrounding his work appears to develop another side story. A story that goes nowhere with none of the mysteries even remotely explained by the film’s end.
All in all, the female performances in the film from Thomas and Kulig are certainly commendable. Sadly, Hawke’s uninspired and half-hearted performance and the complete mess of a story kills any redeeming qualities the film has.
Ultimately, ‘The Woman in the Fifth’ becomes the story layered with filth. What a shame.