Bad Timing

Dir: Nicolas Roeg, 1980. Starring: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel. Drama.
Bad Timing

Bad Timing does more than paint a picture of obsession between two incompatible lovers. It explores the inevitable consequences that occur when two people don't know how to walk away from their doomed relationship.

Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) is an American psychoanalyst and professor with a position in Vienna. He profiles powerful people for a living and interacts with commoners in a very pretentious and cold way. Milena (Theresa Russell) is the American wife of a Czech diplomat who approaches Alex at a party. Their story is told in two parts, beginning with Milena's attempt to commit suicide. After taking a large amount of pills she calls Alex to say goodbye. He goes to her apartment, calls an ambulance, and is questioned for several hours at the hospital by Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel) and his team. Alex can't seem to figure out why he's being interrogated about the lifestyle of a woman he claims to be merely friends with. It is announced that Milena has overdosed and is in a coma, and something about his story and her critical condition just doesn't add up. From the time he claims she called him in distress to the time it took for him to arrive at her home and call for help, there's a questionable series of hours that are unaccounted for. Through a series of flashbacks, the film goes through their toxic love affair, ending with the detective's efforts to try and figure out if her attempted suicide could have been prevented, or if it was an attempt at all.

Unraveling the lives of smart and powerful men has made Alex feel as though he's on their level. He has no friends and no spouse, and at parties he's the typical neurotic wallflower. His indifference intrigues Milena because he's the only man in the room who isn't scrapping for her attention. But Milena is the kind of woman who's used to getting her way and as she aggressively pursues Alex, he begins to admire her fearless and unabashed affection. His admiration turns to intrigue when he discovers that she is a liar, the wife of the diplomat he's currently investigating, and a compulsive jezebel. Throughout their affair he suspects that Milena has various lovers on the side, which is seemingly obvious after catching her flirt with various men. Each man becomes a prospect for her and a threat for him, which is hard for him to swallow because he's come to think of himself as an exceptional man. While gravitating to Milena's sloppy and carefree life, he hopes that there might eventually come a time where he can have her to himself. But the qualities that attracted him to her become the ones that he despises the most, and in his new-found insecurity he suspects that Milena is bored with him. As they both try to hold the power in the relationship, Alex's desperation and helplessness turns to a violent aggression. As Milena pushes to be independent and understood, Alex fumbles closer to the edge of insanity.

Nicolas Roeg is seen as the great forgotten director. His film Walkabout has always been given great acclaim, and The Man Who Fell to Earth, Performance, and his fantasy works are all favorites within their genre. Though Garfunkel is known mainly for his music career, his performance is so powerful and natural that you”ll wish there was more of it. His character is not someone deserving of sympathy by any stretch of imagination, but there was a quality about it that was in many ways a pleasure to critique. Russell and Keitel deliver characters who come quite close to stealing the attention away from Garfunkel, and it is the irresistible quality of their performances that added the perfect balance and some jaw-dropping chemistry. I would like to think that Roeg's direction brought most of the intensity to the screen, but I must say that these actors are what keep you grounded. Still, the flow of the movie and the mystery behind whether or not Milena's condition was the result of foul-play was both exciting and gut-wrenching. We, of course, must praise the director and editor(s) for such craft. The tension between each scene, enhanced by sharp, unorthodox cuts and frame manipulation, puts me on the edge of my seat every time. Bad Timing will always be one of my favorite films. More than a thrilling account of mystery and discovery, it is a well-made film that puts a dazzling, and yet criminal spin on love.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jun 6, 2011 4:38pm
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