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EDITIONS
Monday, 15 April, 2002, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
K-Pax
K-Pax

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


KIRSTY WARK:
Mark Kermode, is this any more than just a feel-good family movie?

MARK KERMODE:
I'm not a big fan of Kevin Spacey - he is twitchy and mad, he is balanced by Jeff Bridges. The more Jeff Bridges looks hangdog, the better he gets.

Ian Softley is one of the most underrated British cinematic storytellers that we have. Look at his back catalogue - Hackers and Backbeat are pop movies, then there is also his very creditable deconstruction of Henry James in Turn of the Screw.

This brings together all the things which he does, pop and cultural stuff, and does exactly what Kurt Vonnegut said science fiction should do which is deal with weighty issues but make you feel like you are eating popcorn.

The first time I watched this I was distracted by Spacey's performance. The second time I was brought in by Jeff Bridges and I cried. I found it emotionally moving, and I think it's a really fine piece of work.

EKOW ESHUN:
This is the kind of film that illustrates precisely what's wrong with Hollywood. It's a film that pretends to be about profundity and spirituality, and sincerity and the sanctity of the family.It's mediocrity disguised as profundity.

It's a giant ego trip for Kevin Spacey. It's one of those films where an A-list Hollywood actor gets to play the holy fool. Think of The Fisher King, think of Forrest Gump. Hollywood stars love playing idiots. Spacey gets to wander round with this entranced look in his eyes, and be magical and touch people and change people's lives.

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
I cried, too! I thought it was a film which questions our arrogance about what we think we know, and what we can't know. It also questions our capacity for belief.

These are people who cannot imagine that here is, possibly, a spaceman. There is a wonderful bit at the end where he says to the psychiatrist, Bridges, "I can accept that I am Robert Porter, if you will accept that I am Prot the Spaceman". He is completely ordinary, and also absolutely special.

KIRSTY WARK:
One of the criticisms that was made of the film was that the characters in the ward with Prot were from central casting.

JEANETTE WINTERSON:
It was a bit One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest grows up. We had all the spacey creatures there, not just Kevin. They were all out of their heads, but he finds a way of making them into human beings.

EKOW ESHUN:
Ever since The Sixth Sense came out, Hollywood has been on this kind of trip to try and find a way to magic and spirituality into the ordinary, to make films that have that twist at the end. That's what movies are about when they work. When they don't work, they are mediocre, cynical and manipulative.

MARK KERMODE:
You are guilty of being snobbish about pop culture. I think, actually, it's a very well constructed intelligent science fiction film.

What you are doing is sneering at the rules and regulations of the science fiction genre, and just imagining that anything that isn't full of angst and darkness and grimness must by its nature be fluffy.

Softley understands that there is a way of having an intelligent discussion which doesn't sound like you are whacking somebody over the head with a textbook. He did it with Henry James, he did it with Hackers, and I think he does it here.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Panel
12 Apr 02 | Panel
12 Apr 02 | Panel
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