Set in a world with memory implants, Robin Williams plays a cutter, someone with the power of final edit over people’s recorded histories. His latest assignment is one that puts him in danger.
Year 1, Day 351
BEFORE: A final day of Robin Williams, this time with a more recent, and lesser-known film, The Final Cut. It’s a science fiction film (which will help tie in with tomorrow’s film) that deals with memory and history. When I was browsing the collection in the local library, it caught my attention because of Williams, then more because of the memory and editing premise, and then when I saw the “two thumbs up” by Roger Ebert on the cover art, I knew this was going to make it into the end of the marathon.
AFTER: For a film that’s all about selecting the best memories of a person’s life to edit into a “rememory”, The Final Cut does a poor job at selecting it’s own best parts. To be sure, there are some great parts scattered throughout, but they’re mired down by a story that is sprawling and unfinished.
I’ll focus on two areas of the film that are done well: Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) and the childhood memory he’s constantly replaying. Hakman is a cutter who has watched many people’s lives and is responsible for making “saints out of criminals”. Williams takes a page out of his deadly serious playbook (more akin to his work in Insomina than his somewhat serious but still funny role in Patch Adams) and he does a great job at it. Plagued with guilt of being responsible for the death of young Louis Hunt; it’s not murder but goading him to cross a narrow plank stories above a concrete floor and watching him fall to his death isn’t so innocent. And from then on, Hakman has sort of been desensitized to people’s sins and is assigned some of the worst lives to cut for which he does gladly. Williams shows this by acting distant. It’s like part of Hakman isn’t there, like he’s already dead, and that’s extremely fitting for the film.
As for Hakman’s childhood memory (the source of guilt that I mentioned above), this is one of the, if not the only plot points that is coherent. The film opens with this memory and it provides a great, mysterious, and intriguing opening; something to draw us in and make us want to watch. It sets the stage by introducing the idea of memories, and more precisely, the details we remember. But from there on, it’s very slow and random. We see things happen but it’s like they don’t exist. Part is backstory as to what Hakman and cutter’s do, what the Zoe implants are, and the apparent focus in the film, the death of Charles Bannister (Michael St. John Smith). None of it sticks though and you’re left think what all this has to do with the big picture. The answer: not much. Everything from the Hakman’s love interest Delila (Mira Sorvino), to the questionable relationship between Bannister and his daughter Isabel, and Hakman’s friendship with other cutters. All these and more (the destruction of a certain item, the special tattoos, protestors… really the list is quite long) seem to come from nowhere and subsequently aren’t resolved. Many of these story lines are left up in the air, and not in the “it’s up to the viewer to make a decision” way; it’s along the “we forgot or didn’t care to wrap this up” way. The result is a story that, while easy to follow and understand, just doesn’t make sense.
It’s really a shame because there are a few priceless moments here. The aforementioned childhood memory (and how that plays out later on in the film) and the whole idea of recorded memories and how curating specific moments can really change histories of people. And of course, there’s the ending which is really mind-bending (if you don’t get what I’m talking about, re-watch the last minute; it took me a while to realize what actually happens). But these moments are infinitesimal compared to the rest of the film. I regretfully can’t recommend watching this film, no matter how much I wanted to have a Robin Williams trifecta.
RATING: 2 out of 5