or How Chris Plays The Most Pathetic Wimp
….. by TeeJay
“You are so broken.”
That’s what Nick (Justin Chatwin) says to Annie (Margarita Levieva), but I guess you could say that about Pete (Chris Marquette) too. About pretty much any of these characters. But first let me talk about the movie itself. Not as good as the trailer promised, but I already knew that before I watched it. Can’t say I hated it, can’t say I loved it. Disregarding the fact that Chris was in it for a moment, it was an okay movie. The fact that Chris was in it made it even more enjoyable. Okay, well, I guess this isn’t a movie that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but you know what I mean if you’ve seen it.
But let’s look at the story first. Nick is your average high school-graduating teenager. Maybe not quite so average when you look at his ambition to become a professional writer, but unfortunately he doesn’t get a lot of support from his widowed mother (Marcia Gay Harden), to whom Nick’s relationship isn’t all that great. Nick’s best friend is Pete, who is a bit of a wimp and in a shitload of trouble, often relying on Nick to help him out.
One day Pete gets cornered in school about an unpaid debt; Annie and her posse want their money for the stolen cell phone they sold Pete. When Pete can’t deliver, it’s again Nick who has to drag Pete out of the mess. However, Annie is in her own kind of trouble, not only with the law. She pisses off her no-good boyfriend and he, unknown to her, rats her out to the police. Unfortunately for Pete, Annie sees him watching her suspiciously as she gets arrested, so Annie figures Pete must be the one who peached on her.
When her boyfriend Marcus bails her out, she goes after Pete and takes him to task. Pete, thinking that Nick is on the way to London to attend a writing course, blames Nick for ratting Annie out. What Pete doesn’t know is that Nick didn’t make the flight, so Annie and her gang seek him out in the night, dragging him into the woods, beating him senseless. They throw him down a hole and leave him for (what they think is) dead. What’s worse is that Pete was dragged along for the whole ride, that he stood by helplessly, watching his best friend being brutally beaten. Just another reminder how much of a wimp he really is.
When Nick comes to again, he walks out of the woods and goes to school, as if nothing happened. But he soon realizes that something’s wrong. No one can see him, no one can hear him. He can touch things and move them, but they only move in his eyes, to everyone else the things he moves stay inanimate.
When Nick watches a bird die outside of his room, it dawns on him that he must be somewhere between life and death, somehow in limbo with perhaps a chance to come back to the land of the living. And perhaps solving his own death is the key. Thus begins an intense struggle where Nick has to figure out how to give the police clues, so that they can find his body and bring him back to life before it’s too late.
Along the way we learn a lot more about Annie and her tragic life, about how she might be the key player in getting Nick to live again and about the relationship between Nick and his mother. We see how Pete is struggling with all his guilt, to a point where he sees no way out, all the while witnessing the pieces of the puzzle fall into place as we accompany Nick on his dark and gloomy journey. Can he indeed turn things around and come back to life?
What I loved most about the movie was the intensity, the whole murky, gloomy, depressing darkness of it. All these characters were so sadly lost in their own way, each and every one of them. Nick seems like he has the perfect life, but deep down he is just as miserable as Annie and Pete because he feels like his mother doesn’t understand him at all. No one seems to get him or care much about what he’s really thinking.
Annie is such a tragic character. She’s been through a lot of crap in her life, how can you not turn cold, petty criminal with a living situation like that, a life without love? How can you not hate life and despise everyone around you? But deep down, she knew that wasn’t who she wanted to be. Tough to break through that facade, once you’ve built it up.
Then we have our broody, deeply saddened but cowardly Pete. Pete who is the wimp, who can’t stand up for anyone (least of all himself), who will always show the white feather at the first sign of danger. Pete, who is too scared of everything and will try to save his own ass first. Until it’s too late and he only sees one way out–and chooses to be coward about that too.
And Nick’s mother is also sort of a tragic character, when you look at it. She already lost a husband and clung on for dear life to at least make her son’s life work out like she had envisioned it. And in the course of that she didn’t pay attention to what he really wanted. I guess she tried to regain control of her life by trying to control her son’s. And she managed to estrange her own son to a point where neither really knows the other anymore.
The saddest thing is that none of them really planned for any of this to happen. You start with one impulsive, little lie, and it blows up in your face and before you know it, spins out of control. That’s basically what drives the whole movie. And what makes it so tragic when you think about it. I felt deeply for each and every one of these characters, no matter that they did these despicable things.
Visually, the whole bleak atmosphere is underlined by the blue/gray tone that seems to dominate the cinematography, the dark and rainy locales we find these characters in. I can only really remember one scene where there was open laughter, and that came from Chris/Pete, of all people. This is not a movie you walk out of with a smile on your face. Quite the opposite.
Now, let me talk a little more about Chris and his role in this movie. We already knew a ton of his scenes were cut. And I can now see myself how that is disappointing, not only for him. Chris said in an interview that he tried to envision what happened to the character when you didn’t see him on screen, and that is one of my main complaints as a Chris fan (I don’t know if others will feel the same way). Because I sat there a few times when the plot was focussing on Annie and Nick and thought: So, what’s going on with Pete right now? Where does he fit into all this? Especially at the end. We never learn whether Pete died or not, whether his suicide attempt ended in actual suicide or only stayed an attempt. The consensus seems to be that he did die, because Pete dies in the book and he also dies in the Swedish version of the film. From a director’s point of view I can see how there was a need to bring the movie to an end without those extra scenes, but from a Chris fan point of view, I wanted closure.
And, Jesus Christ, must Chris have had a hard time up there in Vancouver! He already talked about that he pretty much shut himself off from the real world, and I can also see how he “needed” to in order to give us that gloomy, broody character. But don’t you just wanna hug him to bits for that? That’s what it means when we say that Chris goes balls-to-the-wall in everything he does. The grim, sullen intensity that surrounds Pete is all there, almost thick enough to grab off the screen. I could totally see why Pete wanted to off himself. Didn’t even find it that shocking, but that probably has to do with the fact that I was spoiled about that before I watched the movie.
What else can I say than: Chris again did an amazing job, especially if you watch him in the four deleted scenes they put on the DVD. His best work for the movie really is in those deleted scenes.
Pete Egan. He is Nick Powell’s best friend and he gets caught up in what happens to Nick. He’s a spineless little nobody, who seems to live in Nick’s shadow. He genuinely loves Nick, but he’s too weak to stop events once they’re set into motion.
Here’s also something from an article about casting the movie at visualhollywood.com:
To play Pete, David Goyer chose Chris Marquette, a rising young star who has won legions of young fans in his role on television’s “Joan of Arcadia” and is now coming to the fore in feature films. Establishing the loyal but unequal relationship between Nick and Pete was key to the intricacies of the story.
“Nick is the one who always gets the girl, always the good grades and Pete has been kind of a hanger-on in the shadow of this golden boy,” explains Goyer. “But it is Pete’s cowardice that sets in motion all the events that lead to Nick’s potential death. I thought Chris was amazing in the role. He reminds me a lot of Sal Mineo in the James Dean film ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ He plays this sad, wounded soul so beautifully.”
Justin Chatwin so enjoyed working with Marquette that the two developed a friendship that added further layers of realism to their on-screen relationship. “Chris was great,” says Chatwin. “He really digs deeply into the characters he plays, and right from day one, we clicked. Chris and I had mutual friends in common, and I had always wanted to do a movie with him. We just had fun in every scene that we worked together in.”
Marquette was immediately attracted to the screenplay’s nuanced depiction of teen lives inside a harrowing tale of suspense. “I thought the story was really unique, and I also felt there were a lot of truths in the characters,” Chris says. “To take a concept that’s so out of this world, where you have this otherworldly character wandering around, and then to find a lot of reality and truth in it was really interesting to me.”
Still, Marquette admits it was difficult to play out Pete’s tragedy. “Pete is a weak person,” he explains. “Nick tells Pete that he has to learn to stand up for himself, to hold his ground, but Pete doesn’t quite know how to do it because he’s so scared all the time. He’s constantly letting himself be pushed around and told what to do, and all of the sudden, it erupts into this terrible situation he never thought he could be in.”
Read the whole article at www.visualhollywood.com.
The movie is rated PG-13. Maybe a decision they only made later, because in an interview Chris said that they had to cut a scene that involved a gun:
“Unfortunately they took two of the biggest scenes I had in the movie and sort of chopped them up, they sort of weren’t as fruitful as I thought they were gonna be. I worked really hard on that project. Unfortunately there’s a gun involved in the scene, so they wanted to take out the gun so now they had to use all these weird angles and all these different cuts. I feel like now… the scene now just becomes really odd. So I don’t know if they’re gonna fix it. Maybe they will. So I might be saying all this and then people are gonna watch it and go: Oh, what the hell’s he talking about?”
The DVD Extras
As the DVD’s out by now, I really recommend you take a look at the special features. There’s 13 minutes of deleted scenes on there, and Chris has ample screen time in four of those scenes. I can only repeat myself when I say that his best work for the movie is in those deleted scenes. He doesn’t really have much dialogue in them, but he doesn’t need to speak to convey what Pete is going through.
Also, Chris is the one that David Goyer singled out in the commentaries of the deleted scenes. He’s the only one of the actors he mentions by name, there was not a word about Margarita or Alex or Justin in those commentaries. Goyer specifically said something about how he liked certain emotions Chris brought across. Upon hearing that, I felt a certain amount of vindication for Chris.
Back in October ’06, when we didn’t know much about the movie, we met Chris and asked him about how big his involvement in the movie was. This is what he told us:
“Yeah, in the trailer it’s really hidden. It’s pretty big, it’s– You know, I play the main guy’s best friend, so I play this guy for the first 45 minutes of the movie, I’m in it a bunch. And then this character sort of goes off on his journey and I’m sort of included then in little bits and pieces.”
….. Stills and screencaps from the movie
….. Discussion about the movie on the message board