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Delphine Chanéac and Sarah Polley

Those awkward teen years. Delphine Chanéac and Sarah Polley star in...

a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Adrien Brody won the Best Actor Oscar for his memorable role in Roman Polanski's 2002 film, "The Pianist." I was pulling for Mr. Brody to win. Now I'm pulling for him again to garner what would be a special-category Oscar. It would be a new kind of recognition by the Academy: not breaking up in total laughter as the lead in a script that only gets funny when it means to be serious.

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody

I don't know how Brody got through a scene in Vincenzo Natali's film, "Splice." For that matter, I also don't know how Sarah Polley was able to not lose it as she does Brody's live-in, science-minded girl friend, Elsa.

Ms. Polley directed the 2006 film, "Away From Her," starring Julie Christie.

Brody is Clive. He's a nerdy scientist dude, too, wears cool, funky tee shirts and sports a shaggy coiffure. Elsa looks like she could use a good comb-out, herself.

But the lovers are smart and in rebellion against the establishment which includes the pharmaceutical firm where they work together. Newstead Pharma's smarmy supervisors are on the couple's case to develop product that makes big bucks for shareholders. Clive and Elsa are more into SPLICING animal and human DNA to create new organisms and seek methods to eradicate disease.

Elsa persuades the rather wimpy Clive to go forward against all legal and ethical odds to covertly perform a not only risky but pretty, pretty, pretty, dangerous experiment which produces a female...uh...being they name Dren---a name you have to spell backwards to understand just how clever this movie is.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley

Dren (Delphine Chanéac), after incubating and some speedy maturation, becomes a pretty, pretty, pretty weird---right out of Greek mythology---quasi-child of the chance-taking couple.

Elsa goes mother-struck while Clive is not so sure what to think about Dren. And I'm not so sure how they could've created this chimera in a laboratory filled with other technicians and managers without being found out.

As Dren grows, becoming more recalcitrant and prone to making noise, Clive and Elsa, in the dead of winter, sneak their ersatz daughter off to a vacant farm on which Elsa and her parents once lived. The home is quite spooky, of course, and no one's around, especially in the old barn behind the house where Dren is placed in residence to continue her maturation and metamorphosis.

Elsa shows Dren how to use makeup and, finally, Clive begins to experience bonding with the creature, as well. There is, however, an apparent sense to the script (written by director Natali) that suggests, in some strange way, it wouldn't be wise for anyone in the audience to imagine the principals might become one, big, happy family.

Yes, that's what happens. Clive, Elsa and Dren don't become one, big, happy family. Changes continue to occur in Dren. She shows she can breath like a fish when Clive, in a moment of desperation, tries to drown her. Moreover, Dren can fly like a bird, sprouting wings from her shoulder blades, when gravity becomes a problem for her stability atop the barn as Clive and Elsa plead for her to come down to safety off the roof.

In a weak moment, I fleetingly hoped the soundtrack music would softly murmur a few bars of the Drifters singing "Upon the Roof."

That should give you an idea of the effect "Splice" gives someone watching the film...or maybe the incongruities embedded in the story.

Delphine Chanéac

Delphine Chanéac in makeup

But if you want really weird, wait till the last fourth of the movie. That's when Dren becomes a "teenager" and realizes that having a little roll in the hay with Clive is something she wants in the worst way. Although Clive first rejects Dren, he---male that he is---succumbs to her ardor and comes close to being impaled at a propitious moment during their tryst with the sharp spike at the tip of Dren's tail. Yes, that's actually in the movie, I'm not kidding. Just about everyone at the screening was laughing out loud. And I got a little choked in my merriment.

Then "Splice" really, really REALLY gets weird. It's the big at-night chase scene in the woods with one of the badass pharma bosses discovering the chicanery of Clive and Elsa and demanding to examine Dren, who, it seems, just died before the pharma guy gets to the farm.

But Dren has fooled her step-parents by slithering (unbeknownst to them) out of the grave in which they've just laid her to rest…and suddenly morphs into a guy...who can fly...without any resemblance to Clark Kent in any way.

Leaving out some of the big close of this turkey, Dren, now a dude, has got eyes for Elsa. Yes, that's right. Elsa.

I can't go any further with this. You'll just have to use your imagination or go see "Splice."

"Splice" official site.

Opens wide Friday, 6/4.

Webmaster's Splice-inspired joke on Flickr.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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