This Oscar-nominated drama profiles the notorious Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush), a provocateur so addicted to words that he used an uncommon ink — his own blood — to write salacious stories while locked away in an insane asylum. Although the outraged Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) tries to prevent the Marquis from writing, a young worker (Kate Winslet) takes his dictation and stirs the passions of the asylum’s abbot (Joaquin Phoenix).
Rating: 5 out of 10
Quills is two different movies all coming at you at the same time. One is a movie about character interaction in an interesting setting which is terrific and the other is a meandering mess about free speech that goes nowhere. The character interaction works so well because the three main performances by Geoffrey Rush (Academy Award Winner), Kate Winslet (Academy Award Winner), and Joaquin Phoenix (2 time Academy Award nominee) are stellar. In fact, they feel so fleshed out (no pun intended considering the subject matter) that we feel we know these people by the end of the story. It’s great when a film can do that because no matter where the story turns, we’re hooked.
Unfortunately, for all the positive aspects these brilliant actors bring, the script is a befuddled mess with no clear message or intent. Do we really need to see characters tortured in order to sympathize with the Marquis De Sade? I know a lot of this is based on fact but for the sake of the storytelling process, fine tune your focus. It makes zero sense to place a film within a claustrophobic setting and then have all these plot lines going on. A great film like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” understood that. It stripped the story down to nurse verse patient and added colorful characters. “Quills” wants to be a sex romp, a free speech message, a period piece, an artistic statement, and a love story all at the same time. It just doesn’t work.