During an encore appearance on Bravo’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio” just two weeks ago, Sir Anthony Hopkins related to his erudite host James Lipton the advice the venerable Sir Lawrence Olivier gave him when he was just beginning his acting career:
“Always risk. Go out onto the edge of the limb of the tree. Go out even further until you fall.”
Well, with Slipstream, the new film Hopkins has written, directed, scored and in which he stars, he proves indefatigably that he followed that advice to the letter.
Slipstream is utterly unwatchable. I hated every minute of it. I’ve never walked out of the screening before, but I was tempted to here. And that in the first five minutes. Rarely have I ever been so anxious for a film to end. I couldn’t flee the theater fast enough when the credits finally began roll. Slipstream is easily the worst thing I’ve seen this year.
There is no way to explain the plot of a film that has more in common with a dream (nightmare?) than with a lucid story. Dreams don’t make sense and neither will this film. Slipstream is a 90-minute, non-narrative, pretend experimental film, the sort of avant-garde stuff they forced us to watch in film school and then insisted we should like.
Felix Bonhoeffer (Anthony Hopkins) is a screenwriter suffering from dementia. His addled mind cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy, between the past, present and future, between that which is real and that which he has written. Characters he invented invade his waking life while flesh-and-blood loved ones slip into his unconsciousness.
Filmmakers talk about the nature of life, the illusion of reality, and dreams within dreams when they want to put handles on the inconceivable or quantify the unquantifiable. Also when they have made a made a complete mess of a film and want it to sound far more cerebral and penetrating than it actually is.
I’m sure Slipstream is trying to say something about Hollywood and the current state of filmmaking, but very few people are going to care enough to decipher what it might be.
Slipstream is composed entirely of repeated scenes, rapid jump cuts, flash frames, old movie clips, news footage and color film stock changes punctuated by random sound effects. Almost no moment goes unmolested or un-manipulated. If there is any praise to offer here, it is to the sun-kissed cinematography of Dante Spinotti and the adroit, stream-of-consciousness editing of Michael R. Miller.
Slipstream is an unqualified disaster. On some level you have to respect Hopkins, truly one of the acting geniuses of our or any age, for attempting something so bold and unconventional. And the concept is certainly intriguing, to be sure. But, Hopkins’ self-indulgent exercise in total lack of restraint is unadulterated, haphazard nonsense. Even David Lynch would hate this film.
When introducing Slipstream at its first screening at Sundance earlier this year, Hopkins described his film as a “creative joke.” Indeed, good viewer, a joke of which you are the butt.