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Tribeca 2017: Sex Games and Ticking Clocks in "The Exception"

Here's Jason Adams reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival yet again!

Let me just be clear about his right up front: I like thinking about Black Book. Paul Verhoeven's sexy 2008 Holocaust thriller with Carice Van Houten is one of my favorite movies and I've seen it at least a dozen times by now. And so it turns out that enthusiasm is open to re-interpretations, because a full half of The Exception plays like an off-Broadway re-staging of that earlier movie, and I still liked it plenty. No, director David Leveaux doesn't have nearly the handle on making moral hay of human contradictions so deftly as Verhoeven does, but who does? Leveaux makes a go of it, at least...

Captain Stefan Brandt of the Wehrmacht (Jai Courtney, and his delicious NSFW but time-period inappropriate ginormous physique) is sent to protect but mostly spy on the displaced Kaiser (Christopher Plummer) and his wife (Janet McTeer) on their secluded estate in Holland. There's he's immediately greeted (if it can be considered "greeting" when it starts with genitals and works backwards from there) by their mysterious new maid Mieke (a sweet, sad, sultry Lily James). Who's playing who? And what about those ducks?

What The Exception gets right, firstly, is humor. The death knell of a romance between a Nazi and... a brown-haired girl with secrets, cough cough... would be self-seriousness, and The Exception never lets itself drown in the horror that we all know's just off-screen. (Though there is one scene late in the film involving Eddie Marsan - it would be Eddie Marsan! - that hammers that home a'plenty.) You catch more flies with honey the saying goes, and you'll get more people to watch your movie again considering the many horrors of WWII if it comes alongside gorgeous people playing sex games and racing against a ticking clock. That's just the reality of popular entertainment (Casablanca 101) and The Exception never loses sight of that.

But something funny happens while the A-Story plays like entertaining-enough Verhoeven fan-fic - the B-Story walks off with the picture. Of course the B-Story also happens to star the tremendous acting duo of Plummer and McTeer, so this oughtn't be a surprise. But I was still a bit flummoxed by how strong the sight of Plummer amongst Nazis reads on its own - how it automatically gooses a repressed Von Trapp Gene I didn't even know I had. For sure a stronger film would've been the two of theirs, but then I mightn't have thought about Black Book so much, and like I said at the start - oh I do like thinking about Black Book.

The Exception plays Tribeca at 8:30 PM Fri (4/28)

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Reader Comments (5)

haha this review is a bit bizarre but makes me want to see it.

And, yes, I can easily see how Plummer & McTeer (both tremendous actors) can steal the picture.

April 27, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

I swear I read Ticking Cocks!

April 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy Sue -- sometimes what we see is more real than what actually is there to be seen ;)

April 28, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hmmm, this actually sounds like fun. The movies so rarely let sexy actors actually BE sexy in them these days, plus Plummer and McTeer? i'm sold.

April 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I just saw the trailer and it looks interesting- plenty of of shots of a naked Jai Courtney doesn't hurt either ; )

April 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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