Friday, 12 April 2019

Number 23 (4½ Stars)

"What is 23? Is it God?"

This is the darkest film of Jim Carrey's career. It isn't just a serious role, it's the story of a man driven mad by an obsession.

Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a happily married man who works as a dog catcher. On his birthday, February 3rd – the date is significant – his wife Agatha gives him a book called "The Number 23", written by Topsy Kretts, obviously a fake name. The main character in the book is called Fingerling. The book scares Walter, because it seems to be written about him. Despite slight differences, he recognises himself in the chapters about Fingerling's childhood and early years. It continues to the present day, and he finds himself doing things described in the book. In the final chapter Fingerling murders his girlfriend. Walter begins to have nightmares about killing his wife. The book hasn't just been written about his past, it's predicting his future.

What is Fingerling's motive for killing his girlfriend? He's become obsessed with the number 23. He sees it all around him. There are so many coincidences that it can't be mere chance. His girlfriend has 23 pairs of shoes. The number 23 is driving him to kill her.

Walter finds the number 23 in his own life. His birthday is 2/3. On his birthday he's bitten by a dog called NED, the 14th, 5th and 4th letters of the alphabet, a total of 23. He opens his wife's closet and finds she has 23 pairs of shoes. Is it God speaking to him? A friend points out that 2 divided by 3 is .666, the number of the Devil. Maybe he should give up fighting against destiny. He should just kill his wife, as he's meant to do.

I wouldn't call "Number 23" a horror film, but it's very unsettling. The mystery is so bizarre that I didn't want it to be solved. It's amazing acting by Jim Carrey, a role different to anything he's done before, and brilliant directing by Joel Schumacher. If you haven't seen the film yet, make sure you watch the director's cut. Four minutes were cut for the theatrical release, and all of the cuts involve sex scenes. None of Jim Carrey's other roles involve so much sex.

The film was a moderate box office success, but it's been savaged by critics. I don't understand why. It deserves to be reevaluated. The story, the cinematography, the atmosphere, the acting. There's no reason not to like the film.

"Be sure your sin will find you out". Numbers 32:23

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