Peacock may wind up being one of those movies that few people see, but everyone who does seems to enjoy. It's not something to just throw on at a party to keep a group of friends amused, and it's certainly not for everyone. But the right group of people in the right atmosphere will thoroughly enjoy the interesting and ultimately terrifying look into the world of schizophrenia that is Peacock.
In order to fully enjoy Peacock, you may want to give your "suspension of disbelief" a tune-up, since there are some elements of the story that you might find a little bit questionable. The story follows John and Emma, a husband and wife living seemingly banal lives, existing on opposite schedules but caring for each other all the same. Here comes the twist...they're the same person. Emma exists from about 10 PM until exactly 8 AM, when she crawls into bed, only to wake up minutes later as John. Suspension of disbelief element one: believing that this person, living two lives, would be able to function in the real world without any sleep. The body needs rest, and this body is getting none.
One morning Emma is pulling laundry off the clotheslines in her back yard when, lo and behold, a massive train engine derails and careens into her (him?). It's possible that Emma moved out of the way fast enough to be uninjured by the ordeal, but the way it's filmed says otherwise. Suspension of disbelief element two: believing that someone would survive getting hit in the face with a train. Once you've let go of those two questionable devices, you're ready to sit back and really think about the movie.
Emma's backyard floods with people desperate to find out what happened and make sure everyone's okay. John has kept Emma a secret up until this point, and the townspeople of Peacock are anxious to know more about this mystery wife of his, who does look different enough from John (Murphy) to fool even the film's audience. While the two live as normally as they can for a little while, increased attention has given Emma something to live for beyond folding clothes and making sandwiches for her dormant husband, and she starts finding ways to live outside of the usual schedule. The question is, how far will she go to remain active?
As mentioned, the cast is impressive. Cillian Murphy is the driving force giving both John and Emma personalities that are completely their own. While John is a friendly but skittish pencil-pusher at a bank, Emma craves socialization and companionship beyond what she and John have. Murphy, best known as Scarecrow from the most recent Batman franchise, is exceptional and hardly recognizable in either role. Not to mention he really doesn't make a bad-looking woman. He's supported by the venerable Susan Sarandon, who wastes no time kicking ass and taking names in her role as the mayor's wife who takes an interest in Emma. Ellen Page pokes her head in as a past lover of John's, with Josh Lucas and Bill Pullman rounding out the big names. Everyone finds their quirks and runs with them, especially Murphy and Pullman, who work together at the bank.
The movie does tend to move a little slowly, but not so slowly that you'll lose interest. A story like this doesn't lend itself to the fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat suspense you get out of most thrillers these days. Instead it's a deliberately deep character piece that gives you time to fully ingest what's going on.
Peacock's director of photography, Philippe Rousselot, does a great job not only making the film nice to look at, but also capturing the feel of a rural Nebraska town perfectly. His latest effort was last year's hit Sherlock Holmes, which put a lot of experience on set behind the newcomer director Michael Lander.
Ultimately, Peacock will lose some people in its twists and turns, and even more in its slow pacing, but those of you who stick around to the end will have seen a great indie movie that deserves a little more cred than it's getting. Sure, it's not perfect, and it's very obviously full of actors who were looking to experiment, but everyone involved is on point at all times, despite its somewhat convoluted, yet always intriguing, story.
As far as indies go, the documentary attached to Peacock is pretty thorough and enjoyable. It might even be worth watching this before you watch the actual movie in order to gain some insight into the characters straight from the mouths of the actors playing them. Not only that, but you'll learn a lot about the townspeople and how the town has somewhat stagnated rather than evolved into the modern world most of us know today. Seeing the documentary first would put things into perspective and ultimately make a lot of this "out there" story a lot easier to swallow.
There's a whopping 30 seconds of deleted scenes, which, while not entirely terrible, add nothing to the film. Their omission was indifferent to the final outcome of the film since they were so short. You just get a few more clips of Cillian Murphy playing a woman pretending to be a man.
The final feature you'll give a crap about is a brief but neat rehearsal session with Cillian Murphy as he and the director Michael Lander iron out the character of John Skillpa. The scene is only about three minutes long but shows off Murphy putting his actor's mind to work. Watching him at work, honing his craft, will give you a greater appreciation of someone you should already have accepted as one of this generation's greats.
Peacock isn't for everyone, but it is without a doubt a good movie. The acting is solid, the cinematography is Oscar-worthy, and the story is gripping and intriguing. However, it's the type of movie that will rub certain people the wrong way, because it's not normal. It's outside the box. I wouldn't recommend this to just anyone, but the ones out there who will appreciate a movie that takes risks should know who they are and should find themselves a copy of Peacock sooner rather than later.