The opening voice-over narration of “Elyse” has a clumsy “English as a Second Language” wince about it.
“People would rather live in homes, regardless of its grayness.” “‘If we walk far enough,’ says Dorothy, “we shall sometime come to someplace.”
But the title character in this Stella Hopkins film is quoting from “The Wizard of Oz.” So you can’t blame the director and co-writer, wife of Anthony Hopkins, for the clunky usages.
The clumsy efforts at marrying a story of mental breakdown and treatment with L. Frank Baum’s children’s parable of 19th century monetary policy? That’s on Stella.
And yes, every other clunky line is hers. Even if she didn’t write them, she approved them. Every pretentious, empty directorial flourish — black and white scenes with splashes of color here and there — every amateurish performance, every second of this dithering, dull and pointless affair can be parked at Mrs. Hopkins’ feet.
Only her husband, playing the psychotherapist summoned to treat the bipolar/borderline personality disorder and possibly alcoholic “spoiled, entitled narcissistic little brat,” acquits himself with his usual immersive professional aplomb.
He’s indulged her — that’s the only word for it — and she’s parked her Oscar-winning spouse in a singular debacle, 94 minutes of almost uninterrupted ineptitude of a first-year-film-school-student level.
Elyse (Lisa Pepper, not good) is a rich lawyer’s (Aaron Tucker, dull) wife, daughter of “a lying b—h” of a mother (Fran Tucker, embarrassingly bad), mother of a nannied little boy, is unhappy and unstable, and the last one to realize it.
That first visit to Dr. Lewis (Hopkins) is shrouded in shadows and meanders between revelations, “Jungian or Freudian,” and discussions of the art of illustrator Maxfield Parrish.
And then Elyse, she of vivid dreams and hallucinatory idylls while she’s awake, gets drunk and breaks down. She’s catatonic, and not just over the party.
A hospital, medication and electroshock therapy are on the menu.
Inane snippets of conversation, an over-sharing reverie by a French-American (male) nurse, brittle, off-putting and stiff performances seemingly molded from single-use plastic, a story that goes nowhere and does so at an excruciating pace — “Elyse” is a quiet, shiny and empty catastrophe.
At least there’s a badly-scripted dream-memory of a trip to Joshua Tree by vintage MGA roadster back when Elyse was pregnant. The car is lovely. The light and staging? Incompetent.
And at least this won’t be the great Anthony Hopkins’ last film. “The Father” is due out in a couple of weeks. By then, this will be passed off as a husband’s Christmas present to a spouse out of her depth.
MPA Rating: unrated, alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Lisa Pepper, Anthony Hopkins, Aaron Tucker, Tara Arroyave, Julieta Ortiz and Fran Tucker
Credits: Directed by Stella Hopkins, script by Stella Hopkins and Audrey Arkins. A Margam release.
Running time: 1:34