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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

K - PAX


****½ K-PAX. Science fiction, drama.

Directed by: Iain Softley.
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack, Alfre Woodard


We saw K-PAX on TV years ago, but The Martian Child and Carl's disappointment in its ending reminded me of it, so I put it in our Netflix queue.

Turns out, we'd missed the first half hour or so when we saw it on TV, because neither Carl nor I remembered the beginning, which shows how Prot (Kevin Spacey) ended up in the mental hospital. In fact, I thought that was the weakest part of the movie. I can believe in aliens, but I couldn't believe that the police would have carted him off. He'd rescued a woman from an attempted mugging; eyewitnesses, including the victim, told the police he wasn't the culprit; he wasn't violent or argumentative, and while he was odd, he didn't seemed drugged or confused. So he didn't want to remove his sunglasses. This was NYC. There are no odd people who wear sunglasses in NYC? *sigh*

Other than that, it was a fabulous movie. Kevin Spacey is Prot, who looks pretty darn human, but he says he's from K-PAX. Jeff Bridges is Dr. Powell, the psychiatrist in the mental hospital where Prot ends up. Prot has a date and time when he'll be going back to K-PAX, giving hope to his fellow patients when he tells them he can take one of them with him back to K-PAX when he returns, and he helps them in a low-key kind of way with folksy advice.

The deadline for his return puts the pressure on Dr. Powell to find out who Prot really is and why the date is significant. The more he studies Prot, however, the more questions he has. It's nicely ironic that even as being around Prot is convincing the workaholic doctor that he needs to spend more time with his family, the mystery of Prot is making him work harder than ever.

The performances were all wonderful. Kevin Spacey is nicely vague, in the way that someone would be whose mind is on something more important. Jeff Bridges is very convincing as the harried but dedicated doctor. Alfre Woodard was underutilized as the head psychiatrist (? I'm not sure what her actual position was, but she seemed to be Dr. Powell's boss) who cautions Dr. Powell against getting too close to Prot, and advocates standard treatments.

Possibly the best thing about K-PAX is the open-ended ending. We discussed it for a couple of days afterward.

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