Between Worlds review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I’d like to preference this review by stating that Nicolas Cage doesn’t get enough credit for his performances that he throws everything into. He overacts but consider the material he is given to work with. I liken him to Michael Caine in how he always enters into a role with his all, as though this’ll be the role of his career. I have to admire that spirit when he’s handed flawed and frustrating pictures such as Between Worlds, a surreal thriller of bodily possession and a sexual triangle.
Cage tries to bring all the crazy to a film that could frankly be crazier. He plays Joe, a truck driver that is down in the dumps after the death of his wife and child. Long hair, beard, and a trucker’s had, he stumbles around saddened at truck stops, drowning his sorrows in snacks. Then he meets a strange woman at the stop; Julie (Potente) is first seen being strangled at a gas station bathroom. Joe defends her but soon learns getting hurt is part of her paranormal powers. Julie needs Joe to help find the spirit of her comatose daughter Billie (Mitchell) and they’re successful in awakening her. Ecstatic, Joe and Julie hit it off with a very sexual relationship.
But then things gets weirder when it turns out Joe’s dead wife possesses the body of Billie. And she’s not happy about Joe’s current fling. This leads to the most messed-up of love triangles where Joe finds himself engaged with very loud and vivid sex with both of them, leading to him questioning his ability to maintain a relationship and Julie trying to figure out how she feels about all this oddness.
In the right hands, this type of film could’ve been a deeply emotional experience for how bizarre it is with its premise. But Between Worlds never slows down to fully embrace its love triangle in a matter that is anything but manic. Nor does it take a breather to showcase its absurdity past the surface-level cliches. There’s a brief instance where Julie takes a moment to explain the current situation and admits that none of this makes sense.
But that’s perhaps the problem in that this film tries to make sense of itself in its twisty surrealism. It tries to explain away the spirits of Joe’s family and Billie with emotional rollercoaster of hallucinations and mind-melting breakdowns, doing so with that trademark Cage insanity that is just too much for the room. The third act that attempts to bring everything to a Mexican standoff conclusion of understanding how this is all connected turns sloppy as Cage continues to cry, hallucinate, and holler his way through a film that is just too beneath him. Credit should be due for a man who appears most insane to cover himself in gasoline while crying and lights a cigarette with a ludicrous sense of desperation.
Between Worlds is far too noisy to work of its own accord and honestly feels quite diritive at times for being so weird. Consider the scene where Joe offers Julie a cup of coffee while lounge music plays akin to Twin Peaks. I was shocked to witness this scene after I admitted to myself there’s a certain David Lynch vibe to this picture that could work. But the film continuously ruins its chances of being that brilliant bit of odd at every turn by being too loud, too blatant, and too drowned in its muddy hysterics to reach anything other than a chance to showcase Cage cavorting with two hot women.