As best I can tell, Trance
is the first film—outside porn, maybe—to have a plot that hinges on a woman’s pubic hair. Though the Goya painting that goes missing in this art-heist thriller is an image of cannibalistic male witches, the work that actually holds the secrets is a life-size female nude. That painting, also by Goya, is widely regarded as one of the first clear depictions of pubic hair, and it becomes a dippy device in Trance
’s plot of obsession, hypnosis and abuse. Danny Boyle’s brashly maximalist film begins with narration from auction-house employee Simon (James McAvoy) on how to prevent an art heist. When smooth crook Franck (Vincent Cassel) busts in, we learn Simon is actually in on the crime. Then Simon is bonked on the head, leading him to forget where he’s stashed the valuable painting and getting him into deep shit with Franck and his thuggish comrades. From there, Simon enlists the assistance of bombshell hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to recover his memories. A great deal of hypnosis ensues, dreamlike or fractured sequences that twist in on themselves and spiral outward with varying degrees of logic. With Trainspotting
and Slumdog Millionaire
, Boyle balanced hallucinatory submersion and frenetic pacing with meaningful character development, but Trance
gives viewers less of a reason to care about the inhabitants of its DayGlo world. With its tilted camera work, off-kilter reflections and thunderous electronica score, Trance
can feel like a densely plotted music video. But as slick as the film can feel, it’s also at times a great deal of fun, thanks largely to the plucky cast: McAvoy like one of Raphael’s adorable yet impish angels; Cassel tapping into a vein of Gallic moral ambiguity; and Dawson imbuing Elizabeth with a feline eroticism. But even they can’t stop Trance
from whooshing by, leaving viewers with throbbing ears and mildly dizzy heads, yet little sense of impact.