Monday, November 14, 2011

“Deaf as a Post” — except the post can lipread just fine and respond just fine ;-)

Last night, I watched an excellent movie. It got every detail right, it had no loopholes, no head-scratchers, and a deaf character was portrayed brilliantly.  I came away from the movie thinking: "I have to make room on my Top 10 list for this gem."

Okay, so I'm being sarcastic. Sue me. (That was sarcastic, too. Please don't sue me! :-D) This movie brings to the forefront the importance for writers and filmmakers to get their details right. Yes, a few details will slip by, and I (yes, even I!) can overlook a few.

The movie in question ("Faces in the Crowd") stars the lovely Milla Jovovich. She witnesses a killing, and the killer is alerted to her presence when her cellphone rings. The killer pushes her character into a river, but a homeless person is there to fish her out. Flash forward to when she awakens from a coma. She has a face-recognition disorder. Faces change every time she looks at them. She cannot recognize her own fiance, her best friends, or even herself in the mirror.

And a killer is most likely after her!

One of the people she turns to for help is a woman who specializes in this kind of  face-recognition stuff. They have a meeting, and the woman acts and talks as she should. Second meeting: the woman announces she is deaf. She looks to  be about 65ish, but when she was 16, a horse-riding accident caused her to become "deaf as a post." She gets by from lip-reading.

WHAAA? At this point, I paused the movie and gave my wife A LOOK. She knows that look. I've given her that LOOK  many times when we're watching a movie with a deaf (or hard of hearing) character. My wife knows me. She grinned big and said: "Okay, you want to stop the movie?"
I laughed and said: "No, let's finish this."

Time to break this gem down.

1) This woman, and I quote from her, is "deaf as a post." She wears no hearing aids, no cochlear implants, no assistance, nothing. She relies on lipreading. Let me tell you something. Lipreading is not as easy as movies might make it seem. Some people are incredibly easy to lipread, yes. But even with these people, you understand maybe 90 percent, 95 percent, at best, of what they say.  For a shrink who works in a darkened room and who listens to patient ramblings, that 5 percent is critical. And that's assuming ALL her patients are easy to lipread. Many, many people are not. Milla Jovovich was not, and the policeman who worked on the case was not, either. One scene cracked me up with the policeman. He was sitting side by side with the shrink. He talked. The shrink understood him! My wife said: "Wow. She can lipread from the side." A few scenes later, the shrink said: "Slow down! I can't read your lips!" Good for another laugh.

Lipreading training helps. But this woman responded right away to what people said. She did not need to process anything. It was just ridiculous.

2) A 16-year-old who became deaf and who is now about 65ish would have developed a slight (at least slight) "deaf accent," especially if she has no hearing aids or a CI. Even with speech therapy.

3) The deafness added nothing to her character. I'm perplexed why they made her deaf. They certainly did not portray her as deaf.

This movie has a lot of other problems going against it, too. Milla's character is a classic horror movie dumba$$. For example, in one scene when a killer is after her, she runs from a populated area into a desolate area. In another scene, she's holed up in what is basically a safe house, and she gets a text purportedly from her ex-fiance to meet her. So she up and goes to meet him. Whaaaa?

Urgh. Stay away from this thing, unless you like watching movies that are so bad you have to watch them. In this case, fully recommended. It's a shame. The premise could have worked brilliantly.

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