Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Bug (2006)
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: Tracy Letts
Cast: Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Michael Shannon, Lynn Collins
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Ashley Judd is not an actress that conjures up film roles that center around the successful development of a shattered and mentally ill character. She is also an actress that when one sees her name as part of the cast of a movie one either just shrugs or ignores her all together. I do not think I have ever sought out a movie to watch because Ashley Judd was in it. The last movie I remember watching of hers was Twisted which came out in 2004. I believe the only reason why I watched it is because it was late at night and I couldn’t sleep. It is these reasons why I find Ashley Judd’s performance in the 2006 movie Bug to be amazing. Playing a lonely and mentally ill character can be very challenging to any actor but for those who can, have a skill that few others have. Ashley Judd does this and does so believably. This alone makes me question why has no director before William Friedkin pushed Judd to act as she has in this film?
Agnes White (Ashley Judd) is a lonely waitress living in a rundown motel in an unnamed sad little town in Oklahoma. Still haunted by her past, White cannot escape her abusive ex-husband who has just been paroled and the kidnapping of her son that took place ten years ago. She tries to numb these memories with alienating herself from society while relying heavily on drugs and alcohol. Whites only friend, R.C. (Lynn Collins) arrives at her place with a drifter, Peter Evans (Michael Shannon) who she met a work. After a nights long drug binge, White and Evans are drawn to each other and soon a relationship between the two begins. Soon after their relationship begins Evans informs White that while he served in the military he was subjected to biological tests at the hands of the government. As his paranoia increases, Evans tells White that government doctors injected insects into his blood stream. White is so damaged mentally that she easily follows Evans deeper into his insanity. Evans and White’s mental illness plays off the other as one begins to notice bugs in their bed the other soon sees them as well. It is not long before they believe they are being monitored by the government and that the bugs in Evan’s blood are releasing radio signals that have given away his position. As Evans and White begin to drown in their insanity they start to mutilate their bodies to try to free the bugs and wrap White’s entire motel room in tinfoil to stop the signal that the bugs are broadcasting. Once they are willing to hurt themselves then they become willing to hurt others.
Ultimately, Bug is a love story. Personally, I am someone who hates romance movies. If a movie does not contain at least one explosion or a severed head I tend to get bored. Even if a movie is not a romantic film I wonder why in every single movie the main character has to have a love interest? Romance movies to me are not only dull but represent heaping piles of bullshit that lie to the viewer about the role of men, women, and love. Thankfully, Bug goes in a completely different direction when it comes to this love story and the real question about this love is do these two people really love each other? Evans and White’s insanity feeds off the other and with each passing day the two become crazier and crazier. When one does not believe the other they are quickly questioned and their love for the other is doubted. It seems for each character the other fills a need. Evans needs White to believe in his delusion in order to validate what he thinks to be true. White is so broken by her past that she is willing to believe anything in order to feel comforted and to forget what has been done to her. Bug has no Hollywood ending with love beating all odds and overcoming all hurdles by the end of the film. It is wonderful to see a film that has two lovers who would have been much more fortunate had they never met each other.
Bug starts off slowly and takes its time introducing the viewer to each of the characters pains. By being slowly introduced to their hardship and sickness their issues do not come off as silly when the two truly go over the top. This makes the tinfoil covered room and the pulling of teeth to look for egg sacks seem plausible. The slow build up makes the viewer understand why the two characters believe they hear black hawk helicopters when it is really the ceiling fan and how the two can cut open their skin looking for bugs.
The majority of Bug takes place in White’s rundown dingy motel room. The only other places in the film are the bar in which she works and several outside shots of the motel. The lack of film locations help represent Evans and White’s isolation from the rest of the world. It emphasizes their loneliness and helps explain how easily they slip into the darkness. The lack of locations works very well for the film. The motel room is never boring as its appearance is always changing. The crazier Evans and White become, the crazier the decor of the room is. The first addition to the room is fly tape and lots of it. Soon bug zappers and plastic traps are added. In the end tinfoil covers every inch of the room.
Bug is often shot in close-ups. Which works very well as the actors are seen with no make-up, bags under their eyes, sweaty, and lines on their faces. Ashley Judd is nude several times in this film and in a brave step for her and the film, her body looks like the average woman’s body does. She is not so skinny you can she her bones. Her backside is a little large, her belly has a little fat, and her breasts are small. Judd does not look like the perfect airbrushed actress which is nice to see because honestly how many mentally ill drug addicts are gorgeous? It is nice to see a woman fully committing to her role. This lack of perfection on Judd and Shannon’s part adds to the heart-breaking yet disturbing performance.
Bug is surprisingly enjoyable and interesting to watch. It is a refreshing take on romance and nudity in films. I truly believe that Bug is a film that is worth a watch.
Bug receives an 8 out 10