Dragonfly (2002)

Directed by Tom Shadyac

This is a good movie that suffers from three things:

1) lame, unimaginative marketing
2) critics’ irrational dislike of Kevin Costner
3) a few, not many, false steps

The story, to quickly sum it up, is about a man who loses his wife. She dies and afterwards she begins to haunt him, or seems to. Costner’s character senses she is trying to contact him with an urgent message.

The story resolves when the character discovers the truth about what is happening.

The first problem the film faces is the insistance from its marketing people to sell it as another The Sixth Sense. This would hobble any film because the The Sixth Sense was such a good film that set against it any other film is likely to fall short (though not necessarily).

More importantly, it misleads an audience as to what to expect. It’s not just the type of film they are led to expect, but also its pace, intensity, and unexpected ending. Though there are similarities between the kinds of stories these films are about, The Sixth Sense is much more of a ghost story whereas Dragonfly is far more a romance. And any crowd expecting the chills and surprises of a ghost story is bound to be disappointed when it gets romance.

The second problem is the relentless dislike of some critics for Kevin Costner. While some of his films may have been turkeys, it’s not as if he has the market cornered on this. Perhaps it’s because some of his films have had a preachy quality to them … I don’t know.

But this dislike of him seems to have prevented many from acknowledging a pretty good performance, one of the better ones I’ve seen Costner in recently. In fact, this kind of film seems to be best for Costner as his performance appears to excel when he is playing quieter, less animated scenes.

Finally, there are a few scenes in the film that do miss the mark. I’m puzzled, for instance, with how Costner manages to be extricated so easily from the bus (in which his leg is caught and he is drowning) once the dramatic elements of the scene are played out. A little too convenient.

There is also the use, or lack of use, of Linda Hunt and to a lesser extent Kathy Bates. Neither has a role that fits her talent. In the case of Linda Hunt, she is left with a pretty idiotic scene where she’s forced to make a pretty inept argument for life after death.

My bigger complaint, though, is the ending. Although it is very brief, for some reason the film felt the need to tack on a Costner voice over, a kind of, “…And this is what it all means …” narrative. The movie worked fine without it. Adding the narrative is like saying, “We don’t think you’ll understand what the movie is about so now we’re going to tell you.”

Since a narrative from Costner’s character isn’t really established anywhere else in the film, to suddenly bring it in at the end is a kind of admission of failure. And this when the movie doesn’t fail; it’s perfectly understandable, and would work far better, without this coda.

Still … for the most part, I found this a good movie. The suspense elements worked for me, as did the romance. While not a great film, it certainly stands up well and is worth seeing.


And the DVD is good too. Picture and sound are excellent, and the special features are good too, though a bit run of the mill. One of the most interesting aspects of the DVD is the director commentary by Tom Shadyac.

I found it refreshing and engaging because Shadyac is almost talking to himself, sounds quite animated, and keeps second guessing himself which allows you, in some ways, into the director’s creative process and into some of the decisions and doubts a director may have. I can’t think of too many commentaries where a director tells you all his mistakes and bad decisions. (I also don’t always agree with him.) .

© 2002 Piddleville Inc.

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