MOVIE REVIEW : Walken Has Purported Close Encounter in ‘Communion’
“Communion” (citywide), a serious, often persuasive attempt to dramatize writer Whitley Strieber’s purported contact with aliens, affords Christopher Walken his showiest role to date.
As the life-loving, happily married Strieber, Walken is a prankish, playful charmer whose wife Anne (Lindsay Crouse) laughs a great deal but is in fact a solid, sensible type. They’re smart enough to know they have it all, including an adored small son Andrew (Joel Carlson) and a chic Manhattan apartment.
They also have a large, equally chic cabin in the mountains. On a weekend in October, 1985, Strieber, his son and another couple (Andreas Katsulas, Terri Hanauer) are awakened by a blinding light. In short order Strieber seems to be hallucinating and sinking into paranoia. A calm, dedicated parapsychologist (Frances Sternhagen) tries to help, but he tends to resist her.
Under the assured, easy direction of Philippe Mora, working from Strieber’s adaptation of his own best seller, Walken dazzles, giving us an intelligent, talented man caught in a nightmare and fearing for his sanity. Crouse matches him as a strong woman determined to put up a ferocious fight to help her husband and save their marriage. Mora and his stars take “Communion” far above standard sci-fi schlock, yet the film stumbles in its presentation of the aliens.
Even those open to the possibility that Strieber did have a series of close encounters of the third kind with a bunch of jolly blue gnomes and some spindly, doe-like creatures with Keane eyes may have a problem with the literalness with which these aliens are presented. They seem right out of the pages of the National Enquirer. Clearly, Mora means to be faithful to Strieber, but a more ethereal approach to the non-humans might have been more effective.
Even so, “Communion,” a most handsome production, does take us on an incredible journey that comes full circle in satisfying fashion. And Walken and Crouse are terrific.