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Hide and Seek

The problem with a film like Hide and Seek is that it never truly pays off in a way that satisfies all of the work and dedication put into setting up the premise in the first place. The problem with reviewing a film like Hide and Seek is that in order to truly express why the film fails to pay off, key aspects and secrets of the film must be revealed in the process.

Sometimes life is just not very fair now is it?

David Callaway (Robert DeNiro) has plenty to be concerned with. He awoke at 2:06 a.m. on “the first of the new year” to find his wife Alison (Amy Irving) soaking in a tub full of her own blood after committing suicide. His daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning), bore witness to the ghastly scenario and as a result is suffering from a withdrawal brought on by said trauma. Add to this the simple fact that David is a psychologist, and you have all the makings for an interesting character study that just so happens to be embedded in a thriller.

David decides that a move from the big city may do Emily some good, because she has too many memories in the Big Apple that could be impeding her recovery. Despite the cautions against this decision by his co-worker/student Katherine (Famke Janssen), David uproots Emily for a fresh start in the country.

At face value, Hide and Seek has all the makings of yet another throwaway thriller, but with DeNiro and Fanning on board you know there has to be something good here.

There is.

You see, the majority of the film is spent delving into Emily’s recovery, her change in behavior, and her vast mood swings. David treats Emily too much like a patient, and you feel his struggle as a father who feels helpless in trying to help his daughter work through her loss. The film adds interesting use of perspective, showing adults looking at Emily from her perspective, which only adds to the creep-out factor in many cases. This is especially emphasized in a few scenes involving Emily and Sheriff Hafferty (Dylan Baker).

Before Emily begins acting out, we see signs that point to triggers regarding her mother’s death. When David meets the aptly named Elizabeth (Elizabeth Shue), Emily’s mood swings take a turn south, and she begins mentioning a new friend of hers named Charlie, who slowly emerges as a terrible influence on the young child.

To go much further would be criminal to the plot, but to recommend this film would remain sketchy. The film dedicates a good amount of screentime to analyzing Emily and studying her behavior. We see her decline through the eyes of David and gain feedback on the situation through his journal entries detailing her progress, or lack thereof. The film does such an excellent job playing by the rules with its use of pop-psychology that it’s easy to dismiss the probable outcome developing in the background.

Fanning, once again, rises above the material here and plays Emily as both creepy and sympathetic. We feel for her, and we wish her father would put down his pen and paper on occasion and just embrace her as a friend as well as a father. DeNiro keeps the majority of his more recent ticks and quirks at bay, turning out a performance that reminds us of the master beneath the schlock characters he’s been serving up as of late.

However, as stated earlier, the film ends badly. The “twist” is not the issue here, because it’s fairly obvious as a possibility early on. And yes, several thrillers have used said “twist” in the past few years with mediocre results, so why expect anything different here? The true error in judgment comes in the complete abandonment of the “rules” the film spent adequate time establishing early on. Not to suggest that Hide and Seek could have been a masterwork had this been corrected, but it does cost the film a few points in the overall enjoyment column.

A film like this is the equivalent of an extra value meal. There’s no nutritional value, and no one expects there to be. But when you get that bag and the smell of French fries comes wafting out you get the sense that there might be a few surprises in store amongst the bag full of junk, causing the whole meal to rise above expectations. All of this hope is instantly killed when your first taste of fries reveals that they are, in fact, cold. There is nothing like cold fries, and it somehow manages to make the rest of your meal taste spoiled as well.

Where Hide and Seek is concerned, the expectation builds well enough, but the fries are most definitely cold. The problem is, you find out way to late in the game to do anything about it.


Mario Anima

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