When I saw a blonde Ashley Judd slowly emerge from the ceaseless forest wearing a pair of blue jeans at the beginning of The Passion of Darkly Noon, I thought to myself: Does she really think she's going to arouse the unseasoned genitals attached to Brendan Fraser's hulking man-structure while wearing a pair of blue jeans? I don't think so. Forget about Brendan's genitals, what about yours? What about mine? The writer-director of this film, Philip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin), seems like an intelligent guy, but if he expects us to believe that Ashley Judd can enkindle the junk of others with just her winning smile, he's in for a nasty surprise. Of course, anyone who's vaguely familiar with this deeply weird, yet highly rewarding motion picture knows, I'm being a tad facetious. To be honest, though, I was somewhat alarmed when I saw what Ashley Judd was wearing in her first scene. That being said, I think it's safe to say that Ashley Judd and trousers aren't exactly on speaking terms in this film.
Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a performance that was this, uh, how you say? Pantless. Oh, sure, the great Gisele Lindley in Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone and the even greater Lois Ayres in Gregory Dark's The Devil in Miss Jones 3 and 4, are technically pantless for a much longer period. But those films are outlandish and farcical. This film is...
Actually, now that I think about it, The Passion of Darkly Noon and the
two three films I just cited are not that different. And I'm not just talking about their affinity for pantless female characters. No, there's definitely something off about this film. And I don't mean off as in, rotten or bad, there's just something askew about it. You could say, off-center.
The first thing that clued me in regarding this film's off-ness was the fact that all the action takes place within a single location. Granted, this location, like I said earlier, is next to a ceaseless forest. But still, I prefer movies that have small casts, yet contain big ideas. (Oooh, I like that.) And you can't get any bigger than the erection Ashley Judd's sweaty gams cause Brendan Fraser to sport in this movie.
While, to the uninitiated, what I just said might come across as vulgar and crass, it's 100% true.
As in Blast from the Past, Encino Man and, to a lesser extent, Gods and Monsters, Brendan Fraser plays a character who is thrust into a world/set of circumstances that he does not fully understand. And just like in those films, Brendan Fraser's Darkly Noon experiences feelings of love and lust for very first time. The only difference being, he doesn't wear a barbed-wire undershirt, cover his body in red paint and hang out with Grace Zabriskie in her backwoods trailer in any of those other films.
Oh, and, yes, his name is "Darkly Noon." Thankfully, though, Ashley Judd's Callie decides to call him Lee. Even though Darkly's explanation in regard to his unique moniker makes sense, I don't think I, or anyone else, want to hear Ashley Judd yelling "Darkly" every five minutes.
Surprisingly, the first thing to grab my attention wasn't the sight of Ashley Judd prancing about in skimpy flower dresses. No, it was the amazing score by Nick Bicât and John de Borman's lush cinematography. However, since the entire film can't be made up entirely of John de Borman's photography set to the music of Nick Bicât, a confused and bewildered Brendan Fraser is thrown into the mix.
Staggering through the woods, Brendan eventually collapses in the middle of a dirt road. After nearly being run over by Jude (Loren Dean), he is put in the back of his truck and taken to Callie's house. And so begins, the passion of Darkly Noon.
At first I was like, the "passion" in the film's title refers to a strong sexual desire. But then I realized that it also refers to the suffering and death of Jesus. While I prefer to think the title refers to the former, you can't ignore the latter, because Brendan Fraser's character is a tad on the churchy side. Hell, his name, Darkly Noon, was taken from the Bible: (1 Corinthians 13), "Now we see through a glass, darkly..." But don't worry, I'll try to shun that aspect of the film for the rest of this review, as I would I really like to focus my attention on, yep, you guessed it, Ashley Judd's organic structure and how it's responsible for unfurling a plethora of crotch-based anomalies.
Just for the record, I'm going to go ahead and assume that Brendan Fraser's character was a member of some kind of Branch Davidian-style sect; one that just suffered a Waco-style raid.
A dazed Darkly Noon stumbles downstairs to find Callie napping on her porch swing. And, after some getting to know each other chit chat, Callie shows Darkly where he'll be sleeping; in the attic of a nearby barn.
At the beginning of the "Third Day," Darkly wakes up to the sight of Callie fixing her roof. Now, given the angle in which he was standing and the upskirt-friendly manner that Callie was hammering, it's obvious that Darkly will never be the same again. What I think I'm trying to say is: Dang! Talk about your crotch-based anomalies.
Just as I about to declare Ashley Judd's character as too nice, she grabs a rifle and starts firing wildly into the ceaseless forest. Of course, the reason she does this is Grace Zabriske-based. But then again, we don't know this yet. However, the moment I heard gunfire, I had a strong feeling Grace Zabriske was the one responsible.
While Ashley Judd's Callie exposes Darkly to vice (smoking, drinking, unorthodox pea preparation, love and legginess), Grace Zabriske's Roxie manages to convince him that his "guardian angel" is in fact a witch.
To make matters worse, the arrival of Clay (Viggo Mortensen), Callie's mute boyfriend (a carpenter who makes coffins for the local undertaker), does nothing but exacerbate things, as Darkly's dream of wooing the slinky seductress is pretty much dead. A perceptive Jude notices this (his lovesick glaring is hard to miss) and tries to set Darkly straight.
Unfortunately, it would seem that Jude's talk had little effect on him, as Roxie's influence on Darkly grows stronger as the film progresses.
As I sort of stated earlier, Brendan Fraser is perfect for this type of role; the dunderheaded fish-out-of-water. Ashley Judd is radiant and leggy as all get out. And I think I can safely declare this to be Grace Zabriske's finest performance outside of the David Lynch universe. Boasting mild surrealist touches here and there (giant floating silver shoe, anyone?), The Passion of Darkly Noon is a rare gem of a movie: mid-90s weirdness featuring an all-star cast. It's like Lake Consequence on crack... or is it?!?