(The cast of JOSHUA, from left to right: Jacob Kogan (as the titular Joshua), Vera Farmiga, Sam Rockwell)
Spinelessly poised somewhere between suspense and irony, ineptness and derivation, low camp and high homophobia/misogyny, George Ratliff’s THE BAD SEED-cum-ROSEMARY’S BABY-cum-THE OMEN-cum-THE GOOD SON-cum-A.I. Sundance offering JOSHUA isn’t really worth a preview, save for its boasting an appearance by murmured Meryl Streep-in-waiting sensation Vera Farmiga. As much as I enjoyed her “make lemonade out of a lemon” wizardry with a weak-link character in THE DEPARTED, and though I’m as strangely, largely baselessly, optimistic about other future turns by this NY Times Magazine endorsed gelfling as the next fan of unorthodox-looking actors with real chops – it’s necessary to prepare y’all for her rather embarrassing turn in this turd. Either left to her own over-emotive devices by a novice director or instructed to gamely ramp up the clichéd hysterics with each snoozily constructed scene of “suspense,” Farmiga just looks, sounds, and moves all wrong. Granted, she’s got nothing to work with here save for an ill-fitting Mia Farrow close-crop, stock postpartum insanity, and the task of working opposite one of the worst child acting performances in memory (not helped by the script’s insistence that all of Joshua’s lines either begin or end with, “Mommy” or “Daddy” – OMG, direct address is SOOO CREEPY!). But, pro that she is, what makes Farmiga truly pale is her actual investment in the shoddy material as co-star Sam Rockwell stands beside it, ever still Sam Rockwell. An homage in a film of wishful homages, this time to John Cassavetes’ snarky ROSEMARY’S BABY turn, Rockwell’s decision saves him – as it saved/condemned Cassavetes – from too close an association with the proceedings. Normally I far prefer the professional, vainless investment of a Farmiga to a mannered, half-serious Rockwell, but with this kind of material it’s hard to begrudge an act of survival. May Vera, whoever she is, find her way forward, living down as she must this bloodied-foot, breast-pumped, crazy-mommy (or is she?) performance.