It’s fair to say that 2014 has been a kind of breakout year for Kristen Stewart. The festival cognoscenti have pretty much agreed that her performances in Olivier Assayas‘s Clouds of Sils Maria and in Peter Sattler‘s Camp X-Ray are probably the best of her career. The problem (and I’m not deriving any pleasure from saying this) is that both films are stiffs. Earnest and serious-minded but snail-paced, psychologically claustrophobic, almost listless at times. Stewart’s challenge is to deliver a first-rate performance in a film people might actually want to see. I’m sorry.
One of the things that bothered me about Camp X-Ray was that it made me feel extremely sorry for for poor Peyman Moaadi, who absolutely ruled in Asghar Farhadi‘s About Elly (’09) and particularly A Separation (’11). Farhadi made him into man of dignity and substance and some ambiguity, but Sattler’s film humiliated him, turning Moaadi into a grimy Islamic detainee in an orange jumpsuit. A no-win loser. Okay, his character has a certain angry focus and a compelling backstory, but I really, really didn’t want to be in that grim-ass facility and it brought me down to hang with Stewart and Moaadi inside it. I must have checked my watch at least 8 or 10 times.
If I’d been stationed in Guantanamo you can bet I would have ventured out of the beach as often as possible and breathed in some of that warm Cuban sea air. But Camp X-Ray was shot last year in the former Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier. The place was shuttered in ’04.