Kiss the Girls vs. Se7en

At the end of Kiss the Girls, I found myself saying, “That’s it?”

Like so many other disillusioned and slightly bitter gen-Xers, I too loved the great modern classic Se7en. Actually, I’m quite surprised at how many Christian guys my age did. In fact, I remember a particular Dr. Leifer class in college in which a fellow student gave a devotion with Se7en as the topic of discussion.

Whoa.

Se7en was something of a phenomenon that seemed to strike home with a lot of people. I think the reason is evident. It was bold, and actually had a message which challenged ideals and complacency alike. People that hear me rant about Se7enask me about Kiss the Girls. I’m sorry, were these supposed to be similar films? Let’s see, shall we?

What Girls does have:
It’s very dark, like Se7en-dark
It’s emotional

It’s got Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. Judd just really shines in it. I remember two very intense crying scenes that’re really done well, which aren’t all that easy to pull off. Audiences aren’t that forgiving of emotion on the screen. And I found Judd’s to be chilling. Yup, chilling.

What Girlsdoesn’t have:
Detective Somerset
Charisma
Sympathy from me

The Good Guys

After Freeman’s wonderful performance in Se7en as Detective Somerset, I was a little let down with his character Alex Cross in Girls. I’m afraid I was expecting the quiet wisdom and determination of the latter. Somerset had this acute realization of the depravity around him, while the rest of the city, and his partner, are unaware of the problems rotting within. Yet, he’s cursed by his tragic keenness.

Cross, on the other hand, is really just a hard-working cop who’s in the wrong case at the wrong time. It’s a much different role, and really unfair to compare the two. Still, Freeman brings not near as much magnetism as he does deadpan (excuse the pun) method to Girls.

One possible reason for the lack of sincerity is perhaps the lack of an equal yet opposite to his character in Girls. Freeman’s antagonist in Se7en was Detective Mills played aptly by Brad Pitt. Pitt represented the more liberal bastion of optimism in the midst of the depressive mire that is the city.

Further, the city was really analogous to the decay and depravity of society. Lurking in dark hallways between the dingy corridors, drenching in the pouring sallow rain, was painted (masterfully by director David Fincher and cinematographer Darius Khondji) the palpable sense of human desolation. There was a very real stink of death, not so much physically but by apathy. And despite all this, we see Mills willfully living in the heart of darkness, determined to “make a difference.”

One could easily criticize the combination of such stark opposites in Sommerset and Mills as hack “good cop, bad cop” pairing. But instead, we get really sincere chemistry between the two, especially in the bar scene, in which both so convincingly sum up their respective ideals…

Sommerset: “I just don’t think I can continue to live in a place that embraces and nurtures apathy as if it was virtue. Hell, love costs; it takes effort and work.”
Mills: “I don’t think you’re quitting because you believe these things you say. I think you want to believe them because you’re quitting. I don’t agree with you; I can’t.”

The Bad Guys

Then there’s the killer. The killer in this flick just doesn’t have the charisma (that’s a morbid description!) that John Doe did for Se7en. He’s got no “higher” purpose, save his own hedonist sadism. I suppose that’s enough, yet I just wasn’t impressed with him. At the end, I found myself saying, “That’s it?”

Plus Girlsemployed a popular thriller movie tactic that warrants no sympathy from me: ‘throw the audience off no matter what.’ You make the killer unguessable by the clues given throughout the movie. Now in Se7en, you weren’t really supposed to guess. The killer’s identity was anonymous even after discovering him. That was the point: faceless evil.

But Girlsis a different movie, in that it paces itself as a whodunit. I’m reminded of Scream but let down with a Scream 2. It’s the difference between a classic thriller where every character could plausibly be the killer, or… the cheap rehash that forces the audience to suspect every new character as they’re presented because, quite frankly, they all have “that look” about them. So if you guess in the first five minutes, you may have a good chance at spotting him early, yet without rationale. Or, you could try to play sleuth and wait till the end, but then you’ll just feel ripped off.

Oh, there’s some pretty disturbing stuff in Girls. But hey, if you liked Se7en, then you’ll probably not be that phased.

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