As is the case with many movies, you can kinda tell how you'll feel about Savage Grace from how you feel watching the trailer. For me, I thought the trailer was tense, dark and disturbing. Julianne Moore looked powerfully off-kilter, exhibiting that magnificent control she utilizes with every role she takes on, but ultimately the trailer left me with a bleakly ominous feeling. Physically, it was like I'd swallowed cement.
The full movie left me with that feeling times a thousand. Julianne Moore's character is appalling in this story, and yet Moore makes us sympathize with her. But aside from that, this supremely messed up film is just hard to watch. Moore portrays the real-life American socialite Barbara Daly Baekeland whose hostile marriage with plastics heir Brooks (Stephen Dillane) Baekeland produced one son, Antony (Eddie Redmayne). After the dissolution of Barbara and Brooks' marriage, Antony became Barbara's closest friend and confidant. Barbara and Antony's relationship was really close, if you know what I mean. If you don't (even if you do), read more.
Antony's upbringing was transient and often lonely as he moved from place to place, always living the high-class lifestyle of a young socialite. Worse, he often had to care for his mentally unstable mother, to the point of dressing her wrist wounds after she attempted suicide. Irritated by the fact that Antony was homosexual, Barbara desperately wished to make Antony "a real man" and this desire extended into an incestuous relationship, which is believed to be the thing that drove Antony to stab his mother with a kitchen knife in November of 1972, killing her.
Though it's all very creepy, the only performance that truly packs a punch is Moore's, whose Barbara is both hateful and pitiable. Redmayne and Dillane seem to have latched onto the emptiness of these peoples' lives to the point that even their performances ring empty. This is the terribly sad telling of a real-life tragedy, and while it's often fascinating to delve into the inside worlds of the rich and famous, the inside of this particular story is merely full of ugliness and pain. Though interesting enough, the movie isn't artful or polished enough to make the incredibly bleak experience of watching it anything more than depressing.