Ashley Judd, I loved, loved, loved her earlier movies like 1993’s Ruby in Paradise, and 1996’s A Time to Kill, but her later high-budget movies have been less than laudable. Her movies have been few and far between in the last decade, so it was a good to see her name on the marquee in 2006’s Bug, in which she stared with Michael Shannon (8 Mile, Vanilla Sky, The Woodsman).
Written and directed by William Friedkin (12 Angry Men, Jade), Bug stars the aforementioned Ashley Judd as Agnes White, a lonely, somewhat fragile woman who seems to live in a state of perpetual fear and depression hold up in a small, dilapidated motel room literally in the middle of Oklahoma. The fear stems from a series of unidentified phone calls she knows are coming from her abusive ex-husband Jerry Goss (Harry Connick, Jr. – Hope Floats, Will & Grace, P.S. I Love You), who was just released from prison. And having her son snatched a few years back might have something to do with her current state of mind as well.
Agnes, who works in a local Lesbian joint as a waitress, has one friend R.C. (Lynn Collins – 50 First Dates, 13 Going on 30, The Number 23). For some inexplicable reason she brings a guy she just met, Peter (Michael Shannon), over to Agnes’ hotel room one night for a few lines of coke, dope, and bad liquor. Peter, an escape mental patient, it turns out, spends much of the night in the bathroom and barely says a word and the ladies muse that he might be a serial killer; little doe they know.
When he finally does emerge from the little boy’s room, he asks if he could stay the night. Agnes consents—she’s just thankful for the male company—and in the morning Peter’s gone but Jerry is there taking a shower. He goes on to beat up on the poor woman, when Peter returns. Exit Jerry. Peter stays on and he and Agnes do the nasty and that is when the bugs come out of Peter’s crocked and utterly insane mind to play.
How does a sane person get pulled into another delusion? Loneliness, isolation, detachment, or a combination of all three? Bug appears to want to answer these questions and Ashley Judd as Agnes does a fine job of portraying the disconnected, lonely woman so desperate for a connection that she buys into Peter’s delusional bugs even though she can see no physical evidence of their existence.
All of the trailers for Bug, paint the movie as something it is not; a horror film. The movie is more a psycho-thriller; we actually never see any bugs and that is point, neither does Agnes but she nonetheless falls under Peter’s delusional umbrella. What we do see is plenty of Ashley Judd in next-to-nothing, or nothing at all.
Be that as it may, the acting throughout Bug is really above criticism. It just so happens that Michael Shannon originated the role of Peter on the stage and he brings that experience to the silver screen. Both he and Ashley Judd turn is laudable performances and at times I am reminded on the Ms. Judd of old, she is so committed to the story at hand. There is more than one scene wherein it is just the two actors pouring out their paranoia on the screen for all to see. Harry Connick Jr. turns in a great performance as well as the ex-con who only wants to protect and control Agnes.
Slow at times, in the end Bug is a one of those rare extremely well acted character-driven drama’s we don’t see much in modern America cinema.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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