Film Noir 101

I confess I’ve been waiting to see Sarah Michelle Gellar’s reemergence in television this fall as the star of Ringer, CW’s would-be new hit drama, for some time now. Touted as Film Noir, the premier episode of Ringer left me absolutely stunned – for all the wrong reasons.

A brief synopsis: Gellar plays the roles of identical twins in a convoluted tale of treachery and intrigue. One of the twins, Bridget, is a recovering addict prostitute stripper; the other a seemingly upright woman who has it all, Siobhan (side note: bad name combinations for identical twins). The premise behind the story is that Bridget takes over the perfect life of her perfect twin sister after being briefly reunited following a six-year absence from each other’s lives; a reunion which ends mysteriously in what Bridget believes is her twin sister’s death. A decent set up for a twisted tale – but that’s only the elevator pitch.

The real show fails to deliver on almost every level (fashion aside). Why take a plot for a drama that isn’t of the hospital/cop/legal genre and do such a poor job of writing and filming? Early on in Ringer, the twins reunite and go on a powerboat ride that looks worse than any special effects from a SyFy Original Movie. How hard is it to get real actors on a real boat? The result looks hellishly sophomoric. I can’t help but think back to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which at more than 20 years since it first aired, was visually striking and imbued with a rich layer of surrealist backdrops that only added to its iconic Film Noir status – far better than the visuals of Ringer. Even first season Buffy the Vampire Slayer special effects looked better.

Then comes the poorly thought out plot. I ask, in all honesty, how does one leave a life of an addict prostitute stripper for that of a Stepford Wife and not have a visibly corrupt moral compass? Bridget might as well have just left the convent with Sister Maria for a life with Captain Von Trapp. The writing is just an atrocity. Another casualty in the war on literacy. What self-respecting screenwriter has the main character hide a handgun under some newspaper at an active construction site? Granted, there are no statistics available for accidental shootings when the handgun in question was so hidden at a workplace, so it might be that the writers made the Lysenkoist assumption it would be a safe place to hide a gun.

Film Noir programs have a difficult go of it as it is. Though Lynch has Film Noir right, Twin Peaks inevitably crumbled when countless questions were raised and answers were never given. Ben Affleck’s Push, Nevada was a similarly styled failure that tried to suck viewers in by offering them a chance to win money. Money is the one thing (other than good writing) Ringer is in desperate need of if it is to be salvaged. Instead of relying on cinematography, plot, or even acting, Ringer reaches out to the audience by assuring them in a public-service-announcement-style message that the story is meant to be mysterious (read, “pointless”), and that if the audience only bears with it long enough, it will all start to make sense.

The bottom line is that Ringer is DOA. It’s a shame because not only is most television devoid of original programming (refer to previous comment regarding hospital/cop/legal dramas), but the show also marks another tragic loss in the war on literacy by operating under the premise that if Gellar is in it, Buffy fans will watch faithfully each week regardless of how pitifully under-written the story.

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About waronliteracy

Storyteller, teacher, author of "Perfect Solution" and "Dire Requisite," I stand alone in the aftermath of the war on literacy, looking for other survivors ... we are out there ... somewhere.
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One Response to Film Noir 101

  1. Katy says:

    Oh no! I was looking forward to this too. What a shame.

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