Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Number 23

I don’t associate Jim Carrey with ‘dark psychological thrillers’, but that’s what you get with the recent Joel Schumacher movie in which Carrey plays a dog-catcher called Walter Sparrow. Walters’ wife buys him a battered, apparently self-published book called The Number 23. The book features a detective called Fingerling who has a dark secret. As Walter reads on, it becomes evident that there are similarities between Fingerling’s life and his own. And when he finishes chapter 22, the story suddenly. Stops.

At first the film is brightly lit, but the mood quickly darkens, along with the lighting, as Walter’s world and the work of fiction collide. The key to the story lies in the omnipresence of the number 23. It gets everywhere, it seems. Example after example of its sinister significance are fired at the viewer. No wonder Walter becomes obsessed. This fixation with the mystique of numbers gives the film a good deal of appeal (at least for trivia buffs like me) and Schumacher plays endless clever games with it.

The excellence of the premise is not, in truth, matched by the overall quality of the plotting. There are frustrating loose ends – for instance, I never figured out: why did Walter’s wife choose that particular book? Worse, although the denouement is bravely counter-intuitive, I think most people will find it rather unsatisfactory.

Nevertheless, it’s a short, snappy film that I was pleased to have seen. And this obsession about the number 23 is definitely catching. Take today, for instance. Day 2 of month 3. 23!! Oh no, now the number’s taking over my life too. Aaaaaagh….


pattinase (abbott) said...

It seems inside every comic, a dark character is waiting for release. Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray come to mind. The problem is it handicaps the film from the outset I think. Only Bill Murray has made the jump and that's because he's had good material, and beneath the dark side, is a comic waiting to get out.

Juliet said...

A s-p-o-o-k-y choice of film for today's post!

Haven't seen it - I generally loathe any film with Jim Carrey in it (with the notable exception of The Truman Show) - but it certainly sounds intriguing.

Martin Edwards said...

Patti, I agree - although I liked Williams in One Hour Photo.

Juliet, I'm a Truman Show fan too. Whether you'd like The Number 23, I'm unsure. Looking at internet reviews, it seems many people had more reservations than I did.

Ali Karim said...

Hi Martin -

We rented this out a few weeks ago, and I was really looking forward to it as I love conspiracy thrillers - My teenage kids enjoyed it, and the opening held promise, but after an hour or so, I left them to it and went to read. It became pedestrian and dissapointing

Great idea, poor execution


Martin Edwards said...

Hi Ali - well, my teenage lad has a strong belief in the special properties of the number 47, so perhaps there's scope for a better thriller with a different numerical basis!