Spider


Year 2002

Ralph Fiennes as   Spider - Dennis Cleg  
Gabriel Byrne as Bill Cleg
Miranda Richardson   as Yvonne  
Gabriel Byrne as Bill Cleg
John Neville as Terrence  
 
Director - David Cronenberg
Screenwriter - Patrick McGrath
Novelist - Patrick McGrath

Spider isn't going to break any new ground in the fragile youth grows up to be a psychotic adult department. But it does provide a believable story arc, excellent acting, superb direction, and score to match the scenes. It's enjoyable all the way through without any distractions. Cronenberg is hit and miss when it comes to subjects his films. Prior to Spider, he did the tepid eXistenZ. When he came back for Spider, he must've been ready.

The plot is that Spider (Fiennes) is released from an institution to a half-way house. The location of the house is close to his old neighborhood, so as he goes exploring he starts remembering his past. Little by little, he pieces his past together.

There's one scene that tells the audience how this goes. An adult Spider is working on a puzzle. He's almost got it completed, but then with the end in sight he destroys his work. Like the pieces of his life, he doesn't want the picture to be completed, but it eventually is regardless.

You see, Spider mentally time-trips to his youth and relieves moments as an observer. He peaks into the window of his house and sees his mother offering a young Spider (Bradley Hall) dinner. They don't see him so you know it's a fantasy.

As Spider digs deeper and uncovers his father's infidelity, you realize that there's no way he could have known about this. He's imagining it. But why? Did he hate his father? His father, played by Gabriel Byrne, isn't the most likable of people so maybe that's it. It's not, but it'll do for a while.

Fiennes does a great job as the social misanthrope. He can barely function when left alone. How is this man going to return to society? It will take some doing and fellow resident at the half-way house, Terrence (Neville), expresses his doubts. Terrence has some great lines. When it's discovered that Spider wears four shirts, Terrence declares, "Clothes maketh the man. The less of a man there is, the more clothing is needed." I think it's a great observation.

Time for a rant. During an interview with Cronenberg, he refers to Fiennes as "Raif Fiennes" Really? Raif? Isn't there an "L" in the name? It's like Hallee Berry. I know that Cadillac makes a Coupe de Ville. It's not a Coupe de Villee. And it's not a Shoppee or Shoppay. The name is Hal, the car is a Coup de Vill, and the store is a shop. Fiennes' first name is Ralph. He may think that it's gauche, but it's not Gauche, it's Ralph. (I speak some French, like Chevrolet Coupé.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Spider the adult is re-imagining the life of Spider the Boy from a point of view of flashbacks. Only they're not actual flashbacks, they're fictional flashbacks. It shows what Spider the Boy was thinking through the eyes of a poorly functioning adult.

How did Spider get his name? His mother (Miranda Richardson) gave it to him. Hearing about spider webs and the death of a female spider after she lays her eggs resonated with Dennis (Spider's real name). In his room, he starts constructing webs out of string.

It's a testament to the pacing of the movie that you only figure it out near the end of the movie but you aren't sure of the event until it occurs. You really figure it out a bit earlier, but you feel like there has to be more to it. And there is. Especially when you realize the Oedipal feelings that young Spider has towards his mother.

A lot of praise can be lavished upon Fiennes for his potrayal of the disfunctional Spider. But Miranda Richardson is phenomenal. I did not realize until I wrote this that she played the dual roles of the Madonna Mrs. Cleg and the Harlot Mrs. Cleg. I did not get that when I watched the movie. Everyone does a great job acting.

The blurb on the DVD says that it's Cronenberg's best directorial effort. It just might be. The only other movie that comes close is Crash.

There's profanity, nudity (a briefly exposed breast which is essential to scarring the young Spider), and blasphemy. It has average chick flick potential. It's a fairly intense and tightly crafted movie even if there isn't any torture, or multiple deaths, or buckets of blood. Think a slightly more complex The Girl in a Swing or a less surreal version of The Butcher Boy. (There are no apparitions of the basket case Sinéad O'Connor playing the Virgin Mary in Spider.)


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