Lonely waitress Agnes (Ashley Judd) lives in a sleazy, rundown motel on the edge of the desert. She lives in fear of her ex-husband and is haunted by the disappearance of her son in a supermarket some years earlier. Her only outlet is the odd night of partying with her co-worker R. C. (Lynn Collins). On one such night, R.C. brings a guy back to Agnes’ room, he’s Peter (Michael Shannon) an odd, quiet guy and Agnes is initially suspicious of him. After a strange conversation Peter stays the night, on the sofa at first before moving to the floor. When Agnes wakes in the morning she hears the shower and notices that Peter has made coffee; however her ex-husband Goss (Harry Connick Jr) emerges from the bathroom.
Bug sets itself up as a story you’ve seen many times before, you think you know where it’s going, even when it changes direction mid-way through. What we get is a bizarre thriller about a lonely woman who finds solace in a toxic relationship; compounded by schizophrenia and drug-fuelled paranoia her life spirals out of control. Not your everyday Hollywood fare. However it is so well made that it’s not until the credits roll that you realise what has happened, and even then you’re not entirely sure what’s taken place. The film has more in common with ‘Requiem For A Dream’ or ‘Naked Lunch’ than the average horror thriller.
The performances are all great; Ashley Judd is the best she’s ever been, if the film had more recognition on release she would surely have been up for major awards. She is stunning and brave in a role most big name actors would steer clear of. I had never seen Michael Shannon before and admittedly I was not convinced during his early scenes, however as the movie reached its climax he commands the screen. Lynn Collins and Harry Connick Jr are very good in supporting roles.
The script was adapted for the movie by playwright Tracy Letts from his off Broadway play. It is an excellent piece of work drawing us in then turning the tables on our expectations.
There is a quote on the DVD cover from Time magazine stating that Bug is “quite possibly Freidkins best movie”, it’s not, ‘The French Connection’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘To Live & Die in L.A.’ are better. However Bug is a good film, albeit a disturbing one and to my shame I didn’t see this movie on its initial release. I’ve seen it now and will watch it again soon. It is so well directed by Freidkin, it doesn’t look like a filmed stage play; meticulously planned as each shot flows seamlessly into the next and this is done within the confines of a motel room. He has confidence in his actors and allows them time on screen, with shots allowed to play out in long takes. There are no unnecessary quick cuts or manic editing which would more than likely have been the case with a less accomplished director.
The movie is confronting and tense, disturbing but not gross, there is no gore on display, apart from a bloody scene involving the removal of a tooth. If you like confronting cinema and want to see something different then Bug is worth the effort, just don’t expect an easy ride.
Quality: 5 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars