Directed and written by one-named multimedia artist Carter and starring James Franco, the film Maladies is featured here today because mental illness is a main theme. Unfortunately, it’s received terrible reviews.
Leah Greenblatt, ew.com: “If a super-pretentious tree falls in the James Franco forest, does it make a sound?”
Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Overrated, overexposed and overindulgent, James Franco is all over the place, like cow chips in the abandoned pasture of a derelict farm.”
Described here by Andrew Pulver, The Guardian:
Ostensibly Maladies is about four people: Franco plays James, a deeply troubled one-time TV star, now ‘retired’; his virtually mute sister Patricia (Fallon Goodson); their painter housemate Catherine (Catherine Keener) with a natty line in cross-dressing; and closet-gay neighbour (David Strathairn), who has a fairly obvious crush on James. Each character has their own ‘malady’ to contend with, but it’s James’s that is the fulcrum to the film: struggling with a novel while responding to a voice (measured, ironic), prompting and questioning him.
Guy Lodge, Variety: “…a household of variously dysfunctional creative types squabble and bond over matters of art, psychology and the advantageous properties of pencils.”
The Setting (Which Confuses Many)
Chris Klimek: “…Maladies seems to be set in the late 1950s or early 1960s, judging by the cars, clothes, and slang. But in one lengthy scene, Catherine watches a news report about the Jonestown Massacre, which occurred in 1978.”
The Portrayal of Mental Illness
Guy Lodge, Variety: “Much of the film, with its offscreen interjections and indeterminate milieu, seems to take place in James’ own addled headspace. Even with this level of inner access, however, it’s hard for the audience to invest in a protagonist this solipsistic.”
One Positive Element Highlighted by Some Critics
Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “It is David Strathairn, as Delmar, the trio’s lonely neighbor, who gives us the film’s strongest moment. Delmar stops by often, to borrow sugar, and do the crossword, but really because he has a doomed crush on James.”
Some Final Words
Rex Reed, New York Observer: “In Maladies, pretentiousness reigns, substituting plot, reason and character development for pseudo-psychoanalysis.”