Very Effective, But Disturbing and Excessive
Release Date: July 24, 2009
Starring: Vera Farmiga, eter Sarsgaard,
Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder,
Jimmy Bennett, and Aryana
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 123 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Executive Producer: Steve Richards, Don Carmody
and Michael Ireland
Producer: Joel Silver, Susan Downey,
Jennifer Davission Killoran,
and Leonardo DiCaprio
Writer: David Leslie Johnson
Address Comments To:Jeffrey L. Bewkes, CEO, Time Warner
Barry M. Meyer, Chairman/CEO
Alan Horn, President/COO
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (New Line Cinema)
(A Time Warner company)
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
The movie opens with Kate, the mother of a young deaf girl, Max, and an older son, Daniel, having a bloody nightmare of the stillborn birth of her late daughter, Jessica. Kate and her husband, John, want to adopt a girl child, but Kate is having doubts. Her doubts disappear when they meet prim but talented Esther, a 9-year-old orphan from Russia. They adopt Esther through an orphanage for young girls run by Catholic nuns.
Soon, however, viewers learn that Esther is hiding things from Kate and John. Also, the children at school mock Esther’s prim and proper demeanor, including her habit of carrying a Bible. Furthermore, the friends of Daniel, Kate’s son, tease him about Esther. And, Kate catches Esther doing strange things and lying. Consequently, tension develops between Daniel and Esther, and Kate and Esther, but Esther goes out of her way to butter up John.
As the mysteries about Esther pile up, Kate brings her concerns about the child to the head nun, Sister Abigail. Esther gets worried about being taken away, and kills Sister Abigail in front of Max while forcing Max to help her cover up this vicious crime.
Amidst all the tension these things bring, viewers learn that Kate became an alcoholic in the wake of her child’s death, which led to a near fatal accident with Max at the nearby pond. Viewers also learn that John confessed two years ago to Kate that he had had an affair 10 years ago.
As Kate becomes more and more suspicious about Esther, John becomes more and more trusting of her. This leads to a wild, violent finish and the crazy revelation about who Esther really is.
ORPHAN plays like FATAL ATTRACTION, the infamous and very popular movie featuring a wife defending her family from the crazy woman that her husband slept with and then abandoned. Like that movie, it is up to the mother, Kate, to defend her family, especially her two children. Also like that movie, ORPHAN delivers the goods when it comes to thrills and chills, even though some of the scary moments rely on jump scenes rather than true suspense (which would be more effective).
Regrettably, however, like FATAL ATTRACTION, ORPHAN is rated R. Thus, it includes very strong violence and plenty of strong foul language, including multiple uses of the “f” word. There is also strong, but brief, sexual content, plus some lighter (and briefly disturbing) sexual references. This disturbing content includes a scene where Esther makes a dress for herself out of one of Kate’s fancy dinner dresses and puts make-up on to seduce John. Not everything is as it seems in this scene, however, which reveals the deep, startling secret Esther has been hiding from everyone, including the orphanage nuns. The revelation of Esther’s secret lets the movie get away with flirting around with some very disturbing content.
Thus, although ORPHAN succeeds brilliantly in making viewers root for the commendable mother defending her two children, it contains very strong violence, plenty of foul language, some sexual content, and other elements that are disturbing and/or excessive.
Editor’s Note: Some adoption agencies have complained about the movie’s depiction of orphaned children waiting to be adopted, but it’s really only the one character who is demented and she’s not really an orphan. So, it’s not really fruitful to attack Hollywood for making one popcorn movie that seems to paint a dark picture of orphans and adoption, unless, of course, it starts making a bunch of them. It would be nice, however, if Hollywood did make a bunch of movies painting a positive, uplifting picture of adopting orphans. Also, putting young child actors in such a disturbing story as this one is highly questionable, needless to say.
ORPHAN succeeds extremely well in putting moviegoers on the edge of their seats and getting them involved in the mother’s sympathetic plight. However, it contains strong violence, plenty of foul language, some sexual content, and other elements that are disturbing and/or excessive.