Monday, May 17, 2010

Now playing at home: PEACOCK (PG-13)

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman

Director: Michael Lander

Peacock is a straight to DVD release (April 20, 2010) that, remarkably, features some big names in the cast. Irish actor Cillian Murphy shines in the dual role of John and Emma Skillpa--a cross-dressing split personality whose masculine side works as a bank clerk, while his wig clad feminine alter-ego takes on the persona of John's homebody wife. All seems to be going smoothly until a train caboose ends up in John's backyard and threatens to derail his neat little double life when the townspeople of Peacock, Nebraska discover Emma and start to get curious.

Maggie, (Ellen Page) a young single mother on the skids, figures mysteriously into John's past, and holds the key to his weirdness. Like any good psychological drama, the clues are dispersed in increments as the film goes along.

Set in the 1950s, Peacock is a character study tour-de-force, with Murphy alternating between the painfully shy bank clerk persona of John, and the more complex Emma, who is plotting against him to have things ultimately go her way. (And he's awfully pretty as a woman!) It's a Norman Bates-esque performance--and true to form--Emma's increasingly diabolical mindset will lead to some skulduggery before it's all said and done. (As one who grew up in the midwest, the image of a bank standing next to some big grain silos strikes a familiar and an authentic chord. )

Cillian Murphy is so much the standout in this film that it makes you wonder why someone like Susan Sarandon--who plays Fanny Crill, the town mayor's wife--was willing to take on a secondary role that doesn't challenge her in the least. The same with Bill Pullman, who plays John's pain-in-the-ass supervisor at the bank. Ellen Page, as Maggie, is the only other character that is fleshed-out to any degree.

I must put in a word for cross-dressers here, who by and large seem to be a harmless lot--but movies like Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and Peacock, may have given them a bum rap.


There aren't any trick endings here--we can pretty much see what's coming as a logical progression of the power struggle between two personalities inhabiting the same body--but I found Peacock growing on me, haunting me if you will, in the days immediately after I saw it...reflecting on the old adage that the child is father to the man.