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"It's the metal sound, it makes me freak out!",
This review is from: Mozart and the Whale (Crazy in Love) [DVD] (DVD)
Asperger's syndrome is usually marked by those who have normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibit autistic-like behavior and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. In this quiet and understated little film, Josh Hartnet and Australian actress Rahda Mitchell play two young people afflicted.
Hartnet stars as Donald Morton, a cab-driver who maintains a support group for disorder-laden individuals. Although he is afflicted himself, Donald has a phenomenal talent for numbers whilst also seeming to lead a pretty ordinary life, although he gets fired from jobs on a regular basis and has trouble keeping his apartment clean and tidy, especially with his collection of birds that constantly run amok.
Donald is a bit of a kind-hearted and shy loner, who refuses to look people in the eye and or directly respond to questions. This causes a problem when he meets the gorgeous Isabelle (Mitchell) who joins the group. Whilst Donald is bashful and introverted, Isabelle is full of energy and life, she says what's on her mind and is impulsively creative - she loves to paint and is musical.
It doesn't take long for Donald and Isabelle to get together, with Isabelle making the first move. She invites him to a Halloween fancy dress party, where is dresses as Mozart and he as a whale. When he nervously brings her his cluttered apartment, Isabelle announces that "this is all about sex," but you can tell that there's obviously a bourgening emotional connection happening.
The rest of the story details their efforts to form some sort of meaningful attachment. The film mostly works, mostly because of the fine work of the talented Mitchell and Hartnett - you can really sense their connection here, and also because the story manages mostly to avoid being cloying and contrived. There's no fake Hollywood sentimentality here.
This is also an important film for Josh Hartnett, because its his first screen performance that shows he's not just a pretty face and that he has some serious acting chops. Of course, how Donald and Isabelle navigate through their various insecurities is why we keep watching. Donald falls in love and wants to marry, but Isabelle is haunted by sexual abuse and can't seem to commit.
Also, the tiniest slight unhinges Isabelle, creating legitimate doubt as to whether she, more than Donald, can ever handle a permanent relationship. The film provides a lot of good solid detail into how these people function and cope on a daily basis and nothing is ever condescending or viewed as superfluous.
As one of Australia's most talented actresses, Mitchell socks her role as the fragile and brittle Isabelle, whose emotional insecurity is buried under a fabulously attractive exterior; and by virtue of her character's assertiveness, she dominates the screen. But it is Hartnett's beautifully nuanced performance as the awkward and retiring Donald that is equally closely observed, as the actor makes quite affecting his character's hopes, desires and dreams. Mike Leonard January 07.