Sunday, July 24, 2011

Magic (1978)

***(out of four stars)

Anthony Hopkins plays Charles "Corky" Whithers, a struggling comedian turned ventriloquist. His new act is successful with Fats, his dummy. Corky suffers from multiple personality disorder and is slowly letting Fats control his life. Even behind the lime light, Fats and Corky hold conversations together.

Burgess Meredith plays Ben Greene, Corky's agent. Ben is sure that he can get Corky his own television show. However, his client will have to undergo certain psychological testing before the project gets underway.

Fearing that his mental capacity will be out in the open and realized, Corky finds seclusion in the Catskills mountain, where he ultimately reacquaints with his high school crush, Peggy Anne. The two spark a relationship and sleep together one evening. Duke, (Ed Lauter) is the husband of Peggy and one time friend of Corky's. He's sure that Peggy has been unfaithful and becomes enraged. There's a scene where Duke takes Corky out on the lake to do some fishing and confronts his old friend about the supposed affair. Not only is it awkward for Corky, but it's also a fear that Duke may uncover something beneath the surface of the lake. Thus exposing his murderous intent.

Corky does end up killing on the command of his dummy, Fats. The kill scenes are pretty good, but they're not blood and guts gore. This film plays on more of a psychological level.

The acting in this film is beyond good. Anthony Hopkins is great as the ventriloquist and often spent much time with the dummy behind the scenes. There is one story that says Hopkins took the dummy home, then called the crew to get rid of the dummy because it was freaking him out. (I wonder how much time it took the actor to accurately portray his character?) We are sure that Corky and Fats are one in the same. However, there are scenes in the film that make me think that Fats has a mind of his own. Fats begins to slowly take over the life of Corky and often instigates murder. He completely controls him in every aspect. The striking resemblance between Fats and Hopkins is uncanny.

I often wonder at what point Hopkins' character begins to spiral out of control. Has he always been crazy or is it the dummy that helped the disorder into fruition? I feel that the character always struggled with the possibility of "failing", much like any artist would. Failure is a constant, nagging problem and Corky seems to fear failure above everything else, including his sanity.

None of the relationships in this film are cohesive. On one hand you've got Peggy, who has become disenchanted with her husband Duke. The marriage is failing, and although Duke is still in love, that love is not reciprocated. Then, you have the affair with Peggy and Corky - at first just sexual - but delves into something more passionate and with meaning. This attempt at love is ultimately failed by the relationship between the jealous, dummy Fats and Corky. Fats (or Corky) will do anything to keep Peggy out of the mix.

When you watch this film, you should realize its genius. There are different aspects to this film that keep the questions coming, yet answer very few. Even the bleak ending is a topic for a good debate. I guess it's up to us (the audience) to decipher those differences. This is a must see film!

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret and Burgess Meredith

Screenplay by: William Goldman

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

107 mins


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