TIFF 2014 Review: Elephant Song
Sometimes its extremely obvious when a play is adapted to the screen, and it’s not always a good thing. Taken from the Nicolas Bilon play of the same name, Elephant Song somehow manages to be melodramatic and dull at the same time. This is because Xavier Dolan gives an over-the-top theatrical performance as Michael Aleen, a psychiatric patient who claims to know the whereabouts of a missing doctor, amongst an otherwise boring backdrop of dull characters and a plot that feels meandering and pointless. Especially once we get to the climatic/anti-climatic finale, that being the answer to the question we’ve spent almost two hours on that is aggravatingly useless set beside an unnecessary major event that feels even more contrived, Elephant Song just feels like a waste of time.
The performances in the film are overall fine, though there is one shining moment for both Bruce Greenwood and Catherine Keener towards the end of the film. Xavier Dolan, who is really the only interesting person in the whole film, is very out of place as his acting style verges on parody. There is never a reason for us to care about anyone in the movie, and it mostly feels cold and boring. There are a few entertaining moments, and many that are laughable intentionally or not, but overall it just feels like a play that was never worth bringing to the screen, as it is uninteresting and the topic of mental illness and family trauma has been handled much better in countless other films. As well, the whole imagery and theme of the Elephant does not have the power that it thinks it does, and is mostly laughable as is much of the other try-hard moments of the film. A static piece that seemingly should stick to the stage, Elephant Song is dull and a waste of everyone’s time.