BUY IT FROM AMAZON: Standard here!
STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $ 26.98
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

- Welcome to Peacock: Making-of Featurette

- Alternate Ending

- Deleted Scenes

- Cillian Murphy Rehearsal Scenes

- Peacock Script (DVD-ROM Feature)

The Pitch
A man in Peacock, Nebraska tries to keep his female alter ego under control.  

The Humans
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Josh Lucas, Keith Carradine.

The Nutshell
John Skillpa is a small-town bank worker in the 1950’s who has a secret; he has another personality named Emma. When a train crashes into his backyard while he’s dressed as Emma, his neighbors mistake her for John’s wife, setting off a chain of events that bring Emma out of her shell.

The Lowdown
Peacock is a movie the creators clearly thought was very special. It’s the type of movie actors take pay cuts to be a part of, (which they’d brag about if it was a success) with “indie” stamped all over it. There’s mental illness, transvestism and a small story unfolded at a deliberate pace. It’s obvious why Cillian Murphy signed on, since it’s the kind of role an actor dreams of– showy and subtle all at the same time. If only there was an ounce of story as compelling as the character, Peacock might’ve turned out as special as its creators hoped. But there isn’t, and the film is ultimately reduced to a fascinating character (and performance) in search of a story worthy of even 90 minutes time.

There’s one fatal mistake that the film makes very early on that it simply can never recover from. It asks the viewer to believe that no one can tell the difference between John and Emma. John runs into a neighbor at the store the night before the train crash and the same neighbor comes to help Emma post-crash, and she doesn’t for a second think Emma looks familiar. By all accounts these townsfolk have known John for years and yet everyone just accepts that he had a wife no one knew anything about that looks extraordinarily like him. If there had been some sort of extreme makeup or body suit, it might be more believable, but as it is (and despite Murphy’s convincing performance) it’s a leap of logic I just can’t make. When Mrs. Doubtfire has a more believable central conceit than your film, there’s clearly a problem.

John Skillpa makes Superman look like a veritable Master of Disguise.

None of this would have been a problem had the film had a different tone. Either play it more as a dark comedy and comment on the townspeople’s acceptance of such a flimsy disguise, or play it more as a thriller, with some people not being as accepting and John/Emma’s struggle to keep the truth under wraps. The film as is keeps closer to the latter in tone, only it completely fails to milk any suspense out of John/Emma’s secret being kept. No one seems to even slightly suspect there’s something fishy going on. Instead, the tension is supposed to come from John and Emma’s separate desires. John wants everything to go back to normal, while Emma wants to change their lives. Neither of them is aware of the others’ actions, but that aspect isn’t explored to its full potential either. It’s like Psycho without any tension or drama.

The most clean-cut looking prostitute in film history… besides the cigarette.

Susan Sarandon and Ellen Page’s characters are the agents of change in the story, with Sarandon wanting to exploit the train crash for her own noble gain and Page just wanting money for her and John’s son. Neither storylines are explored very well at all but Page’s is particularly weak. She plays a prostitute who shows up out of nowhere with a son John knew nothing about and we learn that his (late) psycho mother hired her to have sex with John while the mother watched. Emma takes an interest in her and tries to help her make a life for herself in Peacock, while John tries to flee the town with her. The problem is the filmmakers make this almost completely tension-free. John and Emma go to Page and Sarandon’s characters and constantly change the plans the other alter-ego made and the outside characters just accept it. They don’t question anything, just kind of go along with whatever either John or Emma propose at every turn. It’s just another failure in a long list of failures in this film’s script.

John realizes Emma packed the goddamn blue dress and not the red one!

The only part of the film that anyone took any amount of time with was the character of John/Emma. It’s a fascinating character and Murphy gives a thoroughly convincing performance as both John and Emma. While the role could easily have been overplayed, Murphy keeps it small and real, and even in the film’s MANY unbelievable moments, Murphy’s performance never wavers. The rest of the cast does what they can; Sarandon is reliably good, though there’s not much for her to do with her small-ish role. Only Page is miscast as the young prostitute. Her Midwestern accent comes and goes, and there’s nothing about her performance that hints at a woman who’s in the desperate situation she’s supposedly in (though to be honest, that may be more of a script issue). All in all, Peacock feels like the filmmakers came up with the character of John/Emma and then tried to build a story around that character, only they completely failed in doing so.

Somewhere in this screengrab is a metaphor for what the filmmakers should have done with the script. Can’t put my finger on it.

The Package
The “making-of” featurette is a little more in-depth than normal, with a great deal of talk about the costume, make-up and production design. Unfortunately, the producers completely embarrass themselves by comparing the film to a Hitchcock thriller at multiple points. The film is bad on its own terms, compare it to Hitchcock and it’s Battlefield Earth. Murphy’s rehearsal tapes are a fascinating look at him playing with the character along with the director, but the featurette is only a few minutes.

The alternate ending and deleted scenes are just extensions of their respective scenes and weren’t likely to help nor hurt the scenes they were excised from had they been included. You can access the script if you stick the DVD in your computer, but since that’s the weakest aspect of the entire film, I don’t know why you would.

3.5 out of 10