Clean

"Weak"

Clean Review


There is one scene in Clean that sticks out to me. A supremely-groggy Nick Nolte sits at a small fast food joint and gets a small salad and water while Maggie Cheung (playing his widowed daughter-in-law) goes up to the counter and orders a monster burger, french fries, and onion rings with a large coke. It's her first real meal since getting out of prison and it's his first meal with her for god knows how long. There's a lot of symbolism, even though it's simple, being used in the scene, and it gives depth to a complicated relationship (everyone thinks she Courtney-Loved her rocker boyfriend). How did director Olivier Assayas, a seasoned pro, allow this to be one of the scant few scenes that hold any real fascination? Furthermore, how did he allow himself to write something so damn drab and insipid?

Emily (Cheung) spends the first 15 minutes of the film being the annoying Yoko to Lee (Nick Cave dead ringer and cohort James Johnston), an aging rocker trying to get a deal for his anthology. She gets nabbed for heroin possession just when she finds Lee's body but is saved by Lee's manager. Out of jail after a quick stint, she meets with Albrecht (Nolte), her father-in-law who has been raising her son Jay with his wife. It's apparent to all involved (besides Jay) that Emily needs to get clean, get a job, and take custody of her child. The journey is held up by a brief stint in Paris where she still takes pills, gets fired from a job and finally begins to detox after her musician friend Tricky (playing himself) ignores her requests for help with the custody issue.

Assayas has never been one for normal (if you call Demonlover or Irma Vep normal, I know the number of a good clinic). So then, why is Clean just that? It's not a terrible film because it doesn't really have an agenda of any sort. Cheung's performance isn't bad by any means, but she never really tries anything. She makes admirable decisions as far as movement goes but she just reads most of the lines. Nolte fairs much better, but it's only because he's played this character before and knows how he works. Cinematographer Eric Gautier does some really exceptional work with the landscapes of Canada and Paris, and does gnarly work with musical performances by Tricky and Metric.

In the end, the problem comes back to a very predictable, uncomplicated script that gives the actors very little to really do. We know this story backward and forward and although the film looks at it in what feels like a more realistic, underplayed style and structure. Consider it a transition film: Assayas trying to try more familiar routes to render his messages. Where Jim Jarmusch, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and David Cronenberg have all made masterful conversions, Assayas seems at a loss as to how to mix his elusive, seductive style with a more formulaic storyline. It's an interesting film for Assayas fans and for fans of Lifetime, but it doesn't deliver the way a film like Irma Vep did. It's a film that hasn't found what it's looking for.

The DVD includes a series of interviews with cast and cew.



Clean

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 1st September 2004

Distributed by: Palm

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Xavier Marchand,

Starring: as Emily Wang, as Albrecht Hauser, as Elena, as Irene Paolini, as Vernon, as Rosemary Hauser, James Johnston as Lee Hauser, James Dennis as Jay, Rémi Martin as Jean-Pierre, Laetitia Spigarelli as Sandrine

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.