Luc!  How could you do me like that?  You make people holding their breath underwater into something beautiful, but you turn the story of Joan of Arc into something blah?  I do not understand.

I never thought I’d say such a thing about a Besson movie, but The Messenger was poorly written.  The script, by Besson and Andrew Birkin, is generally dull and poorly paced, only breaking for bouts of sheer bizarreness.  The battle scenes were pretty neat, to be sure.  And the scene where Joan first meets the king was special.  But the film feels terribly disjointed.  And while the more spiritual or religious aspects infused into the story of Joan’s battles may be the movie’s raison d’etre, they tend to be nothing better than a confusing distraction.

The casting may have fit the spirit of the film, but something went wrong somewhere.  Case in point, Faye Dunaway as the Machiavellian mother-in-law of the Dauphin.  In theory, perfect role for Ms. Dunaway.  But her lines end up being mostly exposition, and entirely clunky as she’s almost shoehorned into the movie, barely making a presence at all.  John Malkovich is awesome as the Dauphin, naturally, but his character isn’t.  Charles VII never gets established as a character, as he seems to fluctuate between intelligent, being a pawn, and just not caring.  Which is fine if he’s supposed to be a mercurial dude, but he’s never established as such.  Dustin Hoffman is barely in here as The Conscience.  He’s actually pretty fun to watch, for the approximately eight minutes he’s on screen.  But the character is emblematic of the poor job Besson and Birkin do at integrating the spiritual and wordly elements of the story.  Vincent Cassel was a bright spot, for me.

I see Milla Jovovich was nominated for a Razzie for her performance.  Besson’s Joan is a difficult character to play, I think, coupling bouts of lunacy with heroism, a belief of divine inspiration with utter naivete.  Here, Jovavich isn’t necessarily a likable Joan, she’s often shrill and displays symptoms of someone mentally disturbed.  I personally don’t think she’s Razzie-worthy.  While the character may be as muddled as the script, a consistent Joan does shine through.

Two Stars