Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012

Winona Returns

James Franco Co-Stars with Winona Ryder in The Letter

By David Luhrssen
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 Winona Ryder has been more or less MIA but resurfaced in a recent, little seen psychological drama, The Letter. She plays Martine, a New York playwright developing a play in a workshop with her usual cast plus a stranger, Tyrone (James Franco). The newcomer instantly alters the group chemistry; he’s cool and self-possessed, asks uncomfortable questions and is instantly disliked. Martine, however, shoots him a curious glance. She’s attracted, not repulsed.


The Letter develops with great subtlety and requires close attention to every gesture and word. Martine’s script morphs along with her psyche, and the transition isn’t just from a contented relationship with her boyfriend (Josh Hamilton) to obsession with Tyrone, but from stability to delusion. Her descent into madness is well handled, even when marred by indie film tics such as blurry for no reason close-ups and that sensitive piano tinkle signifying fragile emotions. The real problem is the conclusion, which seems unsatisfactory (at least after one viewing). However, The Letter is worth seeking out for Ryder and Franco, who give strong performances in their carefully nuanced roles. It's out on DVD.

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