My friend used to make the joke that he was always seated in front of moviegoers who had never seen a comedy before. There are those individuals who believe that every joke has the potential to make you laugh out loud. “Pieces of Her” on Netflix is a thriller that only works if you’ve never watched one before.
It’s full of stereotypes that would have worked better on the pages of Karin Slaughter’s best-selling novel, but they just don’t work here. It’s a shame that Toni Collette is unable to make the most of her talents in this film, which lacks a compelling story and is structured in a way that makes it feel like a B-movie.
A lack of character development and a lack of camp make this an effort that falls somewhere between the two extremes.
The first few pages of “Pieces of Her” provide the kind of adrenaline rush that makes people want to buy a book to take with them on their next vacation. When what seems to be a typical day turns out to be anything but, Laura Oliver (Collette) and her daughter Andy (Bella Heathcote) are eating at a restaurant when a shooting spree begins.
As Laura steps in to rescue her kid, she reveals a stunning level of viciousness in her protective instincts by slashing the jugular of the would-be killer. Because of her bravery, the mother was able to prevent more loss of life, which is the kind of turn of events that garners worldwide notice in the media. Laura doesn’t desire worldwide attention.
The fact that Laura is featured in the press is detrimental to both her and Andy, for a number of reasons that will not be divulged. When there is more violence in Laura’s life, this time coming to her actual door, she sends her daughter away, but Andy refuses to go into hiding, trying to figure out who exactly this woman is that she has been calling mom.
Laura sends her daughter away when there is more violence in Laura’s life, this time coming to her actual door. Instead, she begins investigating the traces of Laura’s past that have been left behind, and the episode “Pieces of Her” develops into a series of illuminating flashbacks that also star David Wenham as Laura’s brother and Terry O’Quinn as her father, who was brutally killed in public in Oslo many years earlier.
The structure of the “Pieces of Her” puzzle can be rather frustrating at times. A precise balance is required to pull off a succession of reveals and twists like this one, despite appearances to the contrary.
Something like “The Tourist” on HBO Max, which is also making its debut this week, keeps its discoveries going at a pace that is beneficial to the character and the tension. If we knew what the hell was going through these characters’ heads, it would make these characters much more interesting.
However, it feels as though the writers are continually trying to scam us out of information and give us the runaround. There is a narrow line between providing excitement and keeping us in the dark for such a prolonged period of time that we stop caring. “Pieces of Her” goes too far in this direction, especially considering how much information is provided in flashbacks.
Because we have no idea what’s in it for us, we stop caring about the people or the predicaments they find themselves in. Instead of anything really thrilling, it devolves into a series of information dumps organized in an episodic style.
It’s a shame that the majority of the performers can’t rise above the mediocre writing that’s been used. Because Heathcote plays bewilderment so blandly for most of the series, the character is probably more approachable in the text, but it makes for a tedious lead on television.
The intriguing and up-and-coming Jessica Barden, who plays Laura in flashbacks, has, for some unexplained reason, been told by TV veteran Minkie Spiro (a regular on “Homeland”) to tone down the majority of her naturally pleasant qualities and instead focus on a melancholy demeanor in her performance.
The only one who provides any interiority is Collette. She is an actress who is able to sell back a story with just a glance or a shiver of recollection in a way that a great number of people simply are unable to comprehend. She exposes more parts of herself than the show that is going on around her is prepared to deal with or even knows what to do with.