The Number 23 review by The Grim Ringler
Maybe its because I am a writer that I find movies about books and their power so interesting. When a story or book works, its like few drugs, pulling you in and twisting reality and perception so that you dont know which was is up and where the exit is. If 23 reminds me of another movie, actually, its of Roman Polanskis supernatural film The Ninth Gate where Johnny Depp is a book collector obsessed with finding the truth behind a rare book. Here, Jim Carrey is the man obsessed and its with another book, this one so similar to his own life that he begins wondering who could have written the book. More powerful than the book though, is a number that seems to be hunting him.
Walter is an animal control specialist who is not just happy with his life but is in love with it. He has a beautiful wife, a good son, and is in a place in his life where everything makes sense. The night of his birthday he is late arriving to meet his wife, having been sent out to capture a dog that bites then escapes him. While waiting for him, his wife investigates a local bookstore and finds a weathered copy of a red book that claims to be a missive about obsession. She likes the book so much that she gives it to her husband on his arrival and convinces him to buy it. Not a reader, he buys the book and decides to give it a chance and is immediately drawn into the story. The book tells of a man who calls himself Fingerling who has become obsessed by the number 23 and believes it to have some sinister power to destroy a persons life. Similarities between the early life of Finglerling and Walter disturb Walter deeply and make him wonder how it is that this person knows so much about him. Their lives are not exact, but they are close enough to cause his mind to wander. As he reading the book, Walter also begins to see the number 23 occurring over and over again throughout his life, so much so that the mad claims of Fingerling start to make sense. As he races to finish the book Walter is plagued by nightmares of murder and violence and he starts losing sense of who he is and what he is capable of doing. He decides that he must seek out the author of the book and ask them how they know so much about him before he goes mad himself, trying to unravel this mystery.
The beauty and madness here are sort of linked. The beauty of the film is that it nails the paranoia and the feeling of losing control of one's life to obsession. The madness is that it feels as if there are two movies here and one doesn't get any real resolution.
The plight of Carrey's character is great. This is an ordinary man who seems as sane as anyone but who, given the right circumstances, slips into a bit of madness. He has a great life, a wonderful family, a job he likes, and is happy, but the nagging questions that the book pose confound him. How can someone be writing about events that are so similar to his own life yet not know him? And if the author does know him, how do they know him? The problem in all of this though is that while the number 23, and it's dark power is at the center of the story, as events arise, and the plot twists, the number and its power seemed to take a back seat. It was there still, waving at us, but it was suddenly a passenger in another car.
But, perhaps that's the beauty of the film. The film leads us down one path, and lets us believe that this film is about the number 23 and its evil power over people, then it veers and shows us that while 23 may be dangerous, that obsession can have far darker consequences. It's obsession, not 23 that opens the doors that leads Walter to a truth he may not want to hear. The film's shift bothered me because I think that I preferred the movie this could have been more than what it became. Again though, this is my issue, and one that many don't seem to have. Where the story and film do go are interesting, and the ending is surprising and doesn't feel like a cheat, I just can't help but wonder what happened to the power of 23.
Director Schumacher, does a great job with the film and shows that he can adapt his style whatever it is, 'cause I'll be damned if I know to fit the story. The direction is energetic and there are moments where he is able to show some flair. There are visual and technical tricks I had not seen this director use before and they served the film well. The acting is good all around and Carrey once again shows his acting skill in tackling a dark role. I am hoping that he takes more chances with his film work and is able to keep pushing himself as he's showing what a fine actor he is.
While I like the film, I don't love it. This is an engaging story with a lot of good twists, and Jim Carrey does a great job here. I wasn't the happiest with the way the story went, but that's a personal quibble that can be overlooked by most. Overall, it's definitely a movie to look for if you like dark thrillers.
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