Touched with Fire (Mania Days)
Starring Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, Griffin Dunne
Paul Dailo is the writer, composer, producer, editor and director of his new film Mania Days starring Katie Holmes. At first I was preoccupied with deciphering the intended tone of Mania Days. It has a Girl, Interrupted feel while inside the mental institution, jokes about Holmes character accidently committing herself lend it towards a lighter tone, but I could never tell if this was intentional. Spike Lee is also one of the producers and he isn’t exactly the peddler of light hearted subjects. As Mania Days begins to take shape, and it certainly takes a long while to find a rhythm, I understood the subject matter to be very serious even with the obscure drug trips and discussions on being from another planet.
Carla (Holmes) and Marco (Kirby) don’t care much for one another on their initial introduction in the mental hospital. Carla accidently checked herself in while looking for information regarding the origin of her initial diagnosis. Marco on the other has was arrested and committed for a variety of reasons. Both are poets and suffer from manic episodes that according to Dr. Strinky are frequent when the two become inseparable. Eventually they are released and attempt to start a life together, taking their medications in pursuit of normality, and then off the medications to live in their own troubled existence. Their families oppose their union and fear the worst will come with two similar manic personalities trying to cohabitate and start a family.
More interested in visually portraying and exploring the manic episodes than the identity of the characters.
“I am not the same person”, Carla explains to her mother (Lahti), begging to understand what she was like before the mania occurred. The film introduces us to very uncharismatic characters that feel like a product of their disorder. The initial introduction seems more interested in visually portraying and exploring the manic episodes than the identity of the characters, in other words they are very unlikeable. The film ends on a note of celebrating acclaimed poets and their mental disorders, although the film never really looks at Carla or Marco struggling with their writing as much as their relationship. It’s oddly romantic to see two people fight a completely different set of circumstances to be together, reminding me of Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi in The Other Sister. That film reached an emotional and more entertaining level than Mania Days.
The films strongest moments are the interventions at the hospital and the surprise ones by the family. However, they are too frequent and produce a boring cycle of meds, no- meds, meds, no-meds. Dailo writes Dr. Strinky as the villain using policy to keep the two lovers separated. I felt frustrated by many of the scenes that don’t advance the narrative, instead just repeat some of the same material. Just leave them alone and let them work it out on their own I yelled silently! This is certainly a step in the right direction for Holmes working back into a functional acting career since her divorce.
Tonally uneven, yet moderately impressive performances from Holmes and Kirby make it tolerable.