By the end of Orphan, one can only hope that the talented Isabelle Fuhrman has a strong pre-teen head on her shoulders as well as some right-minded parents at home keeping this child actor sane. (Perhaps in between takes of her bashing & stabbing, the crew pumped her full of happy Jonas-imagery). At eleven, Fuhrman already shows the wise instincts of a traveled young-adult thespian, not to mention that she can do a hundred times more convincing Russian accent than Harrison Ford (see K-19 : The Widowmaker). But what a gauntlet this poor kid seemingly had to go through while filming Orphan. It's difficult enough imagining a young actress like Linda Blair channeling Satan through her pre-pubescent body, but at least she was aided with special effects, make-up, and the confines of nearly one location. Fuhrman's wickedness, however, comes from her face, her eyes, glaring as if she's projecting the evil thoughts of 1000 of the world's craziest bitches.
I'm no prude, nor am I one that's ever been convinced of the damage that a specific role can have on the psyche of a child (Jodie Foster seems to be a well-adjusted woman today), but I still can't help but worry about an eleven year-old actress that is asked to portray a psycho killer and to be a part of mildly sexual subplot. Though, to be fair, editing wise, the filmmakers did appear to do their best in keeping Fuhrman out of any full-on sexual situations. Maybe, now, in being an uncle to seven kids, I am just more sensitive to these protective issues, or maybe it's because Furhman also appeared in Hounddog (which I've yet to see), that highly controversial Dakota Fanning movie which caught heat for its sexualizing of young actresses. I just know that when I walked out of Orphan, I was hoping Isabelle Fuhrman was an older actress playing young. When I realized she wasn't, I was kind of disturbed.
As for the film, Orphan surprises with its first half of cleverly paced lead-ins, slick cinematography, and across the board strong acting (Vera Farmiga, especially, is fantastic; Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle accurately describes it as a "two-hour nervous breakdown"), but then buckles to generic genre boredom in its second. Orphan quickly moves past frustration and into nearly unbearable tedium with that age old everybody-in-the-audience-can-see-that-the-mom-is-telling -the-truth-about-that-crazy-kid-so-why-don't-the-father-and-psychiatrist!?!. When the doctor finally tells the mother that she needs to enter rehab for relapsing into alcoholism (when a trained professional could clearly tell that she hadn't), I wanted to reach into the screen and grab a wine bottle to smash over my own head.
"Awww... come on Fox, roll with the punches, suspend that disbelief!". Fair enough, and ordinarily I would have no problem with that, but, in Orphan, director Jaume Collett-"I did the House of Wax remake"-Serra couldn't decide whether he wanted us to sink into a seriously tense thriller or ride along with a B-movie goof of a film. Screenwriters David Johnson and Alex Mace certainly filled their script with enough gags for the latter, tossing in darkly-comic pranks such as Peter Sarsgaard's perpetual blue-ball problems, Fuhrman's so-bad-it's-funny Russian roulette spot, and - for the ultimate - a ridiculously ribald reveal of a climax that had me cackling out loud and not really minding, anymore, that the douche two rows in front of me kept texting some other douche or skank while he should be looking at the movie.
But as a I sit here and ponder the reasons why Orphan ultimately doesn't get a passing grade from me, the answer is actually oh so seems painfully clear ... once again. A film like Orphan shouldn't play on past the 82-minute mark, yet Collett-Serra pushes it to 101! Why??? The only answer I can offer up is self-indulgence. Had Orphan ended 20 minutes earlier than it does, I would have liked it. I would have been able to find forgiveness for a second-half that still would have fallen short in comparison to the frontloaded first, but it would have at least had a merciful tourniquet tied on to stop the bloodletting - and thus, life - of the film. Maybe one day we'll start seeing Director's Cuts that are actually "cuts", shorter versions that better compliment the original intentions of the creators than what the studios eventually rolled out.