Of all the films creating buzz at Sundance this year, Matthew Chapman’s film The Ledge is getting some of the loudest. There’s no doubt that its celebrity cast is helping as it stars Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, and Terrance Howard. That is a cast that can draw attention. But while there are some great performances, The Ledge doesn’t seem to stand out among all the great Sundance films this year.
To the Chapman’s credit, he admits that he decided he would write the exact type of script he wanted to, quite certain it would never be made. How it actually came to be a feature film was explored further in a interview with the director which you can check out here. The story begins a bit romantically, with a man, standing on a ledge, readying himself to make the jump. This man is named Gavin and he’s played by the British actor Charlie Hunnam. Howard plays Hollis, the officer in charge of talking him down. And Tyler and Wilson play a married fundamentalist Christian couple, Shauna and Joe. Gavin’s been givin’ to Shauna on the regular, and his pending suicide has something to do with Joe’s discovery of the affair. It all unfolds slowly, as Gavin tells it to Hollis on the ledge.
There’s an awful lot going here. Hollis found out just hours before that he may not be the father of his children. Gavin is a devout atheist who’s been preached to by Joe for the errors of his way. And of course, Gavin is this way because his daughter was killed in a car accident years before. Yep. There’s a pretty big list of cliches they made sure were checked off before this film was shown.
Hunnam has huge difficulty veiling his British accent. To the point of distraction. While the writing responsible for developing Hunnam’s character isn’t that great, he didn’t do it any favors with his arrogant and off note performance. While it may seem unfair to place the majority of the blame on the actor, and not the writer, you’ll only need to compare his performance, with those of Wilson and Howard. They were provided the same script, yet what they manage to do nearly saves the film as a whole. But not quite.
There are some interesting issues explored, those of pain in relationships, trust, the ideas of sacrificing for ideals etc. Unfortunately, the last of the list is portrayed in strictly black and white. Gavin’s self-assured atheism may seem slick at first, but only artificially so. Other parts of the film have the same feel, like Gavin’s roommate who is an HIV+ homosexual just denied marriage by his Kabbalah temple. Eventually it seems like he’s just protesting too much. A conclusion that supports this would have been welcomed, but he sticks to his ideals until the credits role. Fundamentalism is beginning to be a tired subject at Sundance. Strangely, Chapman had some very insightful things to say on the subject during the film’s Q&A. Sadly, none of them were translated into his film. There are enough thrills in The Ledge for a theatrical release. And it’s a fine film. It just’s nothing to write home about.
The Ledge has a couple very strong performances and it explores some interesting issues. There are some satisfying thrills to be had here and overall, it's not a bad watch.