Sunday, March 2, 2008

Review: Descent (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Review By: Kelsey Zukowski
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Chad Faust, Marcus Patrick
Directed By: Talia Lugacy
Written By: Talia Lugacy, Brian Preist
Released: 2007
Grade: B-

Maya (Dawson) is a college student at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. She is an excellent student and is somewhat of an intellectual. Her social life is where she isn’t quite up to par. She hasn’t completely gotten over her past boyfriend and is wary of men. Just to satisfy her mother she makes up a boyfriend based on a book she is reading. One night, she goes to a party. As she is getting close with a girl, one of the guys at the party intervenes. As Maya is trying to go, her future rapist, Jared (Faust) stops her. Maya sees through his pick up lines, but he doesn’t give up very easily. She eventually agrees to at least talk to him. He tries to escalate things that night, but Maya postpones the intimacy. They go on a date and Maya actually has a pretty good time. They go back to Jared’s house as things go farther. Maya is enjoying it at first, but then things start to move too fast for her. She tells Jared to stop. He doesn’t listen though and she struggles and screams for him to let her go. Jared just covers her mouth and finishes until he’s done with her though.

After Maya’s rape, her life is changed. She starts hanging out with a rougher crowd and induces herself in drugs. Maya doesn’t have any relationships other than very casual ones. She remains to be a good student though and ends up monitoring Jared’s class nearing the anniversary of the day they met. At first they don’t make eye contact. Jared doesn’t even acknowledge her presence. When she catches him cheating on an exam, she is finally the one to confront him. His defense is that Maya is just using that as reason to lure him in, convinced that she wants more of him. Maya agrees with this and they make plans to spend the night together. She makes him strip, chains him up, and blindfolds him. Maya takes her final revenge on him, by showing him the harms that rape can do.

Rosario Dawson did a fair job with this, but honestly there was a lot lacking from her character. This is more of the fault of the script than her actual performance though. There was a lot of character development lacking, which really affected the film. You still felt for Maya though, there just wasn’t a true understanding of her. Chad Faust did well, not quite as good as his work in Saved!, but he did show the proper appeal. He was very arrogant, deceptive, and didn’t seem to have any compassion for anyone other than himself. Marcus Patrick gave a mixed performance. Some parts earlier on seemed very bland and dry. His character also wasn’t explored enough and he was really a stranger to us. At the end, he did an incredible job though during the most intense scene, which the entire film really depended on. He became angry, fierce, and loyal in the most terrifying way.

Descent should have been better than it was. One of the biggest problems was that there wasn’t enough background. When Maya is getting raped, we still don’t really have any idea who she is. She seems very broken up and on the recovery from past experiences. We know she broke up with a boyfriend awhile back and she still needed to get over him, but aside from that we know nothing else about that past life. It also seems like there is some confusion on her sexuality. She gets very close with a female friend and is upset when a guy interrupts this. Later in the film, when she goes to clubs there are many instances of her making out with girls. Yet in the beginning there are moments with Jared that she enjoys. And she pursues Adrian (Patrick), and lies about her age to impress him. Nothing is really made clear though, which makes it hard to connect with Maya even though we feel bad for the rape she had to endure.

The film has a bit of a pacing problem. The first hour goes by very slowly, yet in all this time it doesn’t seem like we are seeing the right things. We are seeing how Maya is acting, but really what we need to see is what she is thinking and how the incident has affected her. During the last half hour it really shapes up. When Maya was raped, it was pretty tame compared to many other films that have this type of scene in it. Most of the film is pretty light for the subject manner and the NC-17 rating. Once Maya seduces Jared for her revenge, the anticipation builds. You are really counting on it to be intense and it does a pretty good job of delivering in this sequence. Maya messes with his mind for awhile. She tells him of a dream she has with him in it. Once he realizes that he will be getting pain not pleasure this time, he panics and screams. Even when he is calm and says a simple word, Maya freaks out in a life threatening manner. She forces objects inside him over and over again. It seems like this will be it though, than in comes Adrian. I really appreciated this aspect as it seemed like the most creative part of the film. Maya doesn’t want to give her body to Jared again even if it is for the sake of his pain. Instead of Maya continuing to try to bring him harm, a male is brought in. If Jared just had to sex with Maya so bad that he couldn’t wait and had to force himself on her, along with some mental and confidence issues, it shows his overpowering desire for woman. So why not take that away from him and force him to have homosexual intercourse, completely destroying his sexuality and pride. Just as the painful memories of Jared may pop in to Maya’s head during sexual situations, now Jared will have to think of this time, which is much longer, more aggressive, and even more degrading than it was for Maya.

It is surprising that Adrian would do this for Maya. They knew each other and hung around each other, but they weren’t even all that close of friends. Possibly someone else he cared about had a similar experience to this. Again, we really don’t know and it would be nice seeing his character’s mindset and motives more. He is really intense and really wants to see Jared regret what he did. At this point Maya is having a hard time. She knows how badly this can affect a person and she set this up to happen to someone, which is hard with her to deal with. In a lot of films we see the initial victim defeat over their rapist and they are shown in all their glory when vengeance is served. Descent manages to communicate that two wrongs don’t make a right. Jared’s rape will never make Maya’s go away. He might have learned his lesson from this, but the sight of it will just be another skeleton in Maya’s closet.

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