By Vic Holtreman
Short version: A bleak and starkly shot film that left me feeling like I needed a shower after watching it.
Downloading Nancy premiered here at Sundance 2008 and is the story of Nancy (played by Maria Bello), a severely emotionally damaged woman married to and emotionally cold man (Rufus Sewell as Albert) who turns to the internet for companionship.
The film opens with Nancy discussing her thoughts on what happens after you die with another woman. At this point it sounds like she is optimistic about the afterlife while her friend is very negative and keeps bringing up counterpoints to make it sound like she could be somehow trapped in some way after death. As it turns out, the friend turns out to be a therapist who is trying to convince Nancy that death is not an escape or freedom.
Her husband Albert is a successful businessman in the golf industry, and it consumes his life. He is very cold to his wife, which is doubly unfortunate because of the fact that she has deep emotional problems stemming from being the victim of sexual abuse as a child. She is teeming with self-loathing and his attitude towards her certainly doesn't help matters.
She turns to Louis (Jason Patric), who she has exchanged hundreds of emails and instant messages with for comfort, or as close a thing to comfort as she is able to achieve. She self-mutilates with razor blades and she enjoys pain, all due to her uber-negative self image.
One night she leaves home, leaving nothing more than a note for Albert stating that she is going to stay with friends in Baltimore. Instead she heads off to meet Louis, and their initial meeting, now in the real world seems awkward.
Of course at first we think it is going to be nothing more than a brief sexual affair, but as it turns out Louis has walls lined with homemade videotapes (we never discover exactly what is on those tapes, but we can make a pretty good guess). The situation takes an even odder turn when Nancy mentions that she has "brought the money" that he has asked for.
As the story moves forward it becomes clear that what Nancy wants from Louis is for him to kill her, and release her from her torturous existence. Nancy's therapist (played by Amy Brenneman) tries and tries to get through to her, but to no avail.
The story is disjointed in that time-wise it jumps all over the place. In the end it does paint a picture of Nancy and Albert's life and the growth of the relationship between her and Louis.
Now to some of you this may sound interesting, and I suppose it could have been, but the overall effect of this movie with it's bland, bright and washed out colors on the screen and the details of the relationships that we are subjected to is quite depressing (yes, I get it, that's the point) and to be honest left me feeling more than a bit dirty to have been witness to all this. Not "porn" dirty, but "slimey" dirty, like going through someones dirty laundry.
I watched this at a press screening and about a dozen people got up and walked out during the showing. About two or three actually applauded at the end of it, but I guess there's no accounting for taste.
The closer the film got to the end the more ridiculous it became in conjunction with the boredom and frankly, repulsive stuff going on.
About 3/4 of the way through the film I was hoping for "release" almost as much as Nancy. I honestly don't understand how an actor can look at a script like this and not just say: "Damn, that is f'ed up!" and just move on to the next one.
I'm giving this one star out of deference to the acting and the editing, but that's it. Big thumbs down from me.