Hollywood, and filmmakers in general I think, have become obsessed with the concept of “the flip”. That’s what I call it when a movie has a twist within the last five minutes that is supposed to shock and surprise the audience.
Hide & Seek sort of has two such “flips”, the main one being pretty darn obvious. Well, to me anyway. Either I’m getting to smart for these kinds of “flip” movies or their just not being done that well. Either way, I’m tired of “the flip”. It’s nearly impossible to pull off effectively, and almost always gets ruined because ultimately “the flip” is what everyone who’s seen the movie will talk about. And once it’s known that a movie has a “flip”, well, the “flip” is pretty much ruined.
The only thing I remember hearing about Hide & Seek was its “terrible” ending. Having now seen the film, which gets its DVD release today, I’m not really sure what they’re talking about. As I mentioned, there are two flips, a big one and a minor one. Which of these made the ending so terrible? I really haven’t a clue. I thought both were interesting, even if the main one was ultimately predictable.
The story follows a psychologist, David (Robert DeNiro), who struggles to care for his emotionally struggling daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning), after his wife and her mother commits suicide. Taking her out of the city and away from a mental institution to the country, David hopes for a quiet, peaceful life to reconnect.
But when Emily develops a strange bond to an imaginary friend named Charlie, things start to go wrong. And when signs of violence arise, David is forced to confront a dark truth about himself and his daughter.
To be honest, when I started watching Hide & Seek, I realized that it was sort of a rip off of What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Phiffer. The two have a lot in common, including similar kinds of red herrings and flips. That’s kind of when I started to realize just what the flip of the movie was going to be.
De Niro does a good job, but seems a little out of place. Perhaps it’s because I just recently sat through Casino, but it’s kind of weird watching De Niro be the nice guy. Fanning is just outstanding, as always, even if her character is a bit of a one-note type. My wife is a big fan of hers, and here she’s dark and brooding, with dark hair that actually seems natural for her. In some cases, dark hair on a normally blonde actress seems fake, but not with Fanning.
It’s hard not to talk about a “flip” movie like Hide & Seek without discussing the flip itself (one of the reasons why I think “flip” movies don’t work well). So, for those of you who have seen the film, read along. But if you haven’t, skip ahead.
About twenty minutes into the film, maybe sooner, I realized that De Niro was actually the crazy one. Not so much because the movie tipped its hat, but because of the nature of the film. You know when watching one of these kinds of thrillers that the person you think is the bad guy is not really the bad guy. In this case, you’re lead to believe that Fanning is crazy, but since there has to be a twist, that only left one possible answer — that De Niro was actually the one with the problem.
Of course, that’s the main “flip”. But Hide & Seek has a minor flip at the very end: the simple suggestion that Fanning also has a split personality is expressed in her drawing. Now, I’m not sure if this is what critics were complaining about when they attacked the movie’s ending, but I thought it was good. A nice little capper that wasn’t surprising exactly, but a good “flip”.
The DVD of Hide & Seek sports an interesting commentary with the film’s director, John Polson, screenwriter Ari Schlossberg, and editor Jeffrey Ford. There are also 14 deleted and extended scenes, as well as a behind the scenes featurette and more. But what’s highlighted prominently are the four alternate endings. Basically, the alternate endings are the last two to three minutes of the film. They aren’t really all that different, just slight variations on the same theme.
What I thought was interesting was how the DVD provides you options where you can watch the entire film and pick which version you want it to end with. That was a different take on the alternate ending feature that I hadn’t seen before.
Overall, I liked Hide & Seek. Can’t say it was the greatest thriller in the world, but I honestly can’t say I disliked it either. It has some good performances and moves at a quick pace. Sure the “flip” is predictable, but that’s nothing unique to this film. “Flips” just don’t work, except in rare cases. And even if you do figure Hide & Seek out in advance, you may still enjoy it.