Frankie Paige (Patricia Arquette), a Pittsburgh hairdresser, receives a package from her mother (who seems to be a perpetual tourist) containing a rosary ("A necklace. Oh, cool."). Just a little souvenir from Mom. Frankie experiences a wave of nausea, thinks she might be pregnant, and doesn't give the rosary a second thought. Then things start happening. Weird things. Mystical things. Things that are not supposed to happen to nice atheist girls. Frankie receives the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. First her wrists ("Is there any stress in your life?" asks the suicide-minded doctor) then her back. A priest who witnesses her ordeal contacts the Vatican and Father Andrew "G.Q." Kiernan (Gabriel Byrne) is dispatched to investigate. Although he initially dismisses her case due to her atheism, Father G.Q. cannot hold out for long against the mounting evidence that something spiritual is happening to Frankie.
There are all sorts of apparent holes and absurdities in the plot of this movie. Of course only the truly faithful would ever receive the stigmata and Frankie's an atheist. You can't receive the stigmata from a relic, like some sort of disease. Frankie's other symptoms also don't seem to add up with what we finally realize is happening. She pulls a Linda Blair and, really, demonic possession isn't at all the case. The director's commentary explains it pretty well, clearing up most discrepancies. It seems to me, though, that if you need the director to walk you through the finer points of the film, the film has in some way failed.
So, the plot is okay enough. It holds your interest. The performances are good, especially Arquette and Byrne. Where the film really shines, though, is in its art direction. It makes outstanding eye candy. It really is visually absorbing, very striking. The soundtrack (by Billy Corgan, late of the Smashing Pumpkins) is also wonderful. Also, watch for Portia DeRossi and Enrico Colantoni (Elliot from "Just Shoot Me"), looking a lot like Javier from "Felicity."
In a film that relies as heavily on visual cues as this one does, the print is all-important and the transfer here is beautiful. The soundtrack, also, is great. Voices aren't always as clear as they should be and there are no English subtitles, which I found irritating. But the music and sound effects are crystal clear.
Special features include an Easter egg "Preproduction Animatic," the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes (including the alternate ending), a lame Natalie Imbruglia video, and director Rupert Wainwright's excellent commentary. Wainwright gives not only the usual background on the film, the sets, the script, the editing, but also relates some of the things he discovered while researching.
Lisa McInnis, 9/1/00