The Fly

The Fly ★★★★

The third Cronenberg in our Horror-o-thon this year. We were going to save this one for the prime spot, Halloween Night, but it was a Thursday, and Thursdays is when our next door neighbours come over for a movie. After exposing them to Magic Mike a couple of weeks ago, we thought we should pick a Dead Ringer, er, film we know isn’t terrible. We thought about Hollie’s pick, the one with the Giant Zombie Poodle and Phyllis Diller, but thought it might be too much of a risk.

What a difference a couple of years makes! The Dead Zone was Chronenberg’s first big budget film, and on our recent rewatch, I still saw that particular ‘Canadian’ Look. With his earlier films, that look fit in perfectly with the low budget sensibilities. With Dead Zone, it just seemed a bit awkward. That transition between childhood and adulthood, in other words, adolescence. Here, Cronenberg has grown up. It’s not like he’s eschewed his boyish charm, but rather refined it.

I saw the original as a kid. I remember little of it other than the lead stepping out of the telepod after his journey with a fly head, and that the trope was that two inter-mingled creatures emerged. Here, Cronenberg and co-writer George Langelaan re-interpret the classic tale by making it about genetic splicing and gradual transformation. The merging of man and monster. This works brilliantly for the story arc, as we see Brundle stage from delusional superman through self-aware fear, to finally acceptance. Hmm, last night I was reading that Cronenberg thought this a metaphor of disease and death. At the time, I thought this was a bit of a stretch, as The Fly is a fine Sci-Fi drama without the need of added interpretation. It’s just now, while I was writing the previous sentences, that I had a flash of All That Jazz and its use of the Kubler-Ross model of the 5 stages of death; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I can see that now as Brundle transforms to BrundleThing. Smart, and tragic. Way to go Cronenberg.

I’ve always thought of Jeff Goldblum as a rather one note actor, similar in a way to Jack Nicholson. While they both give great performances, you always see their underlying image and personality. Goldblum I’ve always given a pass to, as his nerdy goofiness is so infectious. He’s not so different here in the first act, but, as the layers of makeup and prosthetics build up, and his humanity is slowly stripped away, the Goldblumisms likewise fade. His performance becomes sad and effecting, laced with pathos. I’ve loved the fresh faced Geena Davis since the days of the old Buffalo Bill TV show with Dabney Coleman. She has great comedic flare as the often downtrodden but spunky foil. This was her first co-starring movie role, and her first departure from comedy. You can see from her performance that she doesn’t quite feel comfortable. Not awkward, by any means, just a bit stiff as the chronicler cum love interest of Goldblum’s Brundle. John Getz was serviceable as Davis’s ex, but I thought the character a bit too cartoony.

All in all, The Fly stands up after all these years, and I love seeing Cronenberg’s signature practical effects gore. For me, this is where he really mastered his directorial skill, and joined the ranks of the best.

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