A mud­dled ‘Face of an An­gel’

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Gary Gold­stein

Like the floun­der­ing film­maker at its cen­ter, “The Face of an An­gel” never seems sure of what story it wants to tell. The re­sult, from pro­lific di­rec­tor Michael Win­ter­bot­tom (“A Mighty Heart,” “The Trip”) and writer Paul Vi­ragh, proves a po­ten­tially in­trigu­ing but un­in­volv­ing look at moviemak­ing, jour­nal­ism, the al­lure of high­pro­file crimes and more. And some­times less.

The movie is a cir­cuitous, meta-fic­tional take on Barbie Latza Nadeau’s book “An­gel Face: Sex, Mur­der and the In­side Story of Amanda Knox,” which ex­am­ined the case of the col­lege stu­dent con­victed in the 2007 mur­der of her Bri­tish room­mate, Mered­ith Kercher. (In 2011, Knox and ac­cused co-con­spir­a­tor Raf­faele Sol­lecito were found not guilty.)

Vi­ragh’s screen­play places glum, haunted film di- rec­tor Thomas Lang (Daniel Bruhl) in Siena, Italy (the Kercher killing oc­curred in Peru­gia), to meet with Nadeau proxy Si­mone Ford (Kate Beck­in­sale), re­search the death of a young stu­dent named El­iz­a­beth Pryce (Sai Ben­nett) and wit­ness the media cir­cus sur­round­ing the trial of her ac­cused killer, Jes­sica Fuller (Genevieve Gaunt).

But the longer Lang spends in Siena, the less of a han­dle he has on the script he’s been hired to write and di­rect about Pryce’s mur­der.

Mean­while, the once-suc­cess­ful di­rec­tor is also busy deal­ing with his ex-wife (Rosie Fell­ner) and rankling the antsy Lon­don film ex­ecs fund­ing his es­capade. When Dante’s “Di­vine Com­edy” starts to in­form Lang’s brain­storm­ing process, it’s clear the guy’s gone off the rails. As has this movie.

By the film’s elu­sive third act, though, it’s truly hard to dis­cern the real point of this am­bi­tious but mud­dled ex­er­cise. “The Face of an An­gel.” No MPAA rat­ing. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 41 min­utes. In English and Ital­ian with sub­ti­tles. Play­ing: Sun­dance Sunset, Los An­ge­les.

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