Felicity Jones plays a young temptress for the second time
in 2014, here opposite Guy Pearce, in Drake Doremus’s well-enough-made if irritatingly
predictable “Breathe In.”
Earlier this year in “The Invisible Woman,” audiences got to
see Jones as Nelly Ternan, a mistress of
Charles Dickens (played by Ralph Fiennes, who also served as director of that elegant film) who became swept up in his glamorous world only to then navigate the
rocky politics of their age differences, their fame differences and, most
importantly, their availability differences. She also served as an
inspirational muse to Dickens, which came with its own baggage.
Something similar is going on in “Breathe In,” which debuted at Sundance 2013 and opens March 28. Jones plays
British exchange student Sophie, who comes to stay for a semester with married
couple Keith and Megan (Pearce and Amy Ryan), and their teen daughter Lauren
(Mackenzie Davis), who’s in the same grade as Sophie. Sophie’s pretty, with
coal-lined eyes and puffier than puffy lips, and an impressive talent on the
piano. Keith, a frustrated music teacher, takes notice of all these qualities.
Meanwhile, Lauren’s crush and fuckbuddy, Aaron, takes notice of the first two.
It’s fairly telegraphed from the film’s opening minutes that
Sophie’s presence will disrupt life around the sleepy New York suburb where she’s
transplanted. And the film boasts a solid visual style and strong performances
to at first ignore the inevitable — and boring — other plot contrivances
clearly at work. But they set in, alas.
Keith falls for Sophie, and somewhere along the way the sympathetic
character Pearce does a fine job of building gets derailed, and turns into the middle-aged
male archetype of restlessness and horniness, while Sophie is the wise, poised
and nubile nymph to revive his excitement for life. As Megan, Amy Ryan — who is also
very good — is given one casually unsupportive line after another. She thinks of Keith’s cello playing at a Manhattan symphony as a “hobby,” for one.
It’s hard to believe that with a representative attitude like this their marriage
has stayed afloat for seventeen years.
Doremus co-penned the script with his “Like Crazy” partner
Ben York Jones, and indeed it’s the beats of the script in “Breathe In” that
need the most work. Doremus has an improv-heavy directorial style that lends
itself to small, intimate moments. But the larger plot events and character
arcs don’t hold up between these moments, unfolding in a clunky, even
cringe-inducing way. The film breathes when it focuses on mood — and coughs
and splutters when it has to get its story moving.
“Breathe In” hits theaters March 28, via Cohen Media Group.