Title: The Grifters
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Stephen Frears
Donald E. Westlake
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cinematographer: Oliver Stapleton
An indie crime-drama fixes on a veiled Oedipus complex relationship between a mother and his son, which also involves another pivotal figure, the son’s femme fatale girlfriend. One background consensus is that they are all grifters, while the mother is an old-hander, the girlfriend is a slutty self-seeker, they are pros, bar the son is just a small-time crook and being too righteous to go down with the swindle business, what’s worse is that he has no sway in juggle with these two women, after the mother hoodwinks a handsome amount of cash from her ferocious boss, which ignites a series of cutthroat happenings which ends in a quite blatantly bold epilogue.
The film was an Oscar dark horse in 1991, amassed 4 nominations including BEST DIRECTOR for Frears and BEST ACTRESS for Angelica Huston and BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS for Anette Bening (although I don’t consider its script an ace one since there are many marked plot-holes buried inside despite of its Oscar nomination). These two ladies at the most time share an analog aspect (have been mistaken at least twice in the film), Anjelica holds a glaringly formidable aura and her and Cusack’s near-incest impulse pushes the film to its culmination of wallowing in a state of indie-charisma. Bening, whose vixen seductiveness has been laid bare unreservedly, pre-empts that the future Ms. Beatty would not earn that title without any man-conquering expertise. John Cusack, top-billed in the film and delivers a marvelous performance as well, whose repeatedly undervalued acting career showed his dexterous prowess at the beginning, sadly, it never kick-started. (All the three performances and the director are among my top 10 ranking, the film barely missed my top 10 though).
For director Stephen Frears, the film differs from his more prestigious works, say THE QUEEN (2006), it certainly has a more noir-ish tone in assembling the intensified thrills with an uneven script (just take one example, it never quite explained how the money being left in the car after the accident, so Lilly, Huston’s character, has to steal the money from her son). But thanks to Frears, the film at the very least establishes itself as a progenitor of the crime genre in the 90s, where violence is always hidden somewhere and executed where you are unprepared.