For some reason, I find the movie enchanting. I watch the movie over and over. The movie is partly about denial, and the coaxing of individuals toward realizing the truth behind their denials.
The movie is partly a comedy, because most everything the Mother, Grace, (Nicole Kidman ) says, is false. Yet she says everthing with sincerity, even intensity.
I particularly like the part where Grace shoots the three servants with a shotgun. Berhta Mills resplies, "you needn't trouble yourself about that mam, the tuberculosis took care of that 50 years ago. Since Bertha was already a ghost, she could not be injured by a shotgun. Bertha Mills had allowed herslf to be intimidated by Grace pointing the gun at her, out of kindness to allow Grace to discover that Grace was herself dead.
The movie throws the audience off, but the concern over eating. Obviously, ghosts have not real interest in eating. But, in our dream world, we can certainly dream of eating a meal. How does a spirit view the world of the living? How does a spirit view present time in terms of the past? Does the spirit continue that activities that he or she had at death? The master, with the war in France? Grace, with Home Schooling her children? Bertha with serving the people in the house? Can spirits really get together for a cup of tea? What are the limits of spirits associateing with other spirits? Are victims forgiving of their murderers?
DARN!!! Well, that's what happens when curiosty kills the cat and you don't read ahead for the spoiler warning! I was looking forward to seeing that movie. It's been playing every few days on TNT I think. So, another "Sixth Sense" I'm really good at ruining movies with in the first 20 minutes, but I never saw that coming. (Sixth Sense) oh well, I'm going to watch it anyway!
My oppinion on this movie... without Nicole Kidman's acting ability to help out this film...well the film would've stunk. Felt like one of those days when i'm in the back of a car in a long long long long car ride, and then when we finally get to the end, you get out of the car and breath the fresh air and actually enjoy the end. But it took a long long long time to get there. And you think, i really liked the end, but... i reallly don't want to take another ride back there. ONCE IS ENOUGH for me. Hehe.
Nicole Kidman played the part of an idiot. Any idiot can get mad and be in denial for days on end. Any idiot can get tangled up in a contest of wills in trying to punish a youngster.
The acting that more intrigues me, I think, is that of Bertha Mills and Mr. Tuttle and Lydia. Bertha Mills is a kindly person, who is trying to guide Grace to discover Grace's denial of being dead. Mr. Tuttle tries to do his part in an awkward way. I certainly can identify with being awkward and making people angry, who really don't know.
Knowing that everyone is dead in the movie, except for a short scene with a few living persons, called Intruders, takes the mellow dramma out of it, yet the actors and children are screaming and yelling excitedly, but really about nothing. The actual violence took place before the start fo the movie, and we never see the act of a violent double murder and suicide.
The movie is really an illustration of the factors that led Grace to treat her servants in a manner that they felt justified in leaving without notice, and the righteous frustration of Grace. leading to her "Madness" which resulted in her smothering her children with pillows. Killing her children seemed also out of frustration with their father, her husband, having voluntarily gone off to war.
Set against the background of reading passages from the Bible. I find a certain instruction in parenting skills from the gentle comments of Mrs. Mills. As a parent, it is easy for me to fly off the handle, more than occasionally. I find the patience displayed by the servants to be instructive, and inspiring.
I personally could use more calming approaches when facing uptight people in tense situations.
There is a difference in approaches between Grace and Mrs.Mills. Grace takes the position that she knows whatis right and wrong. The movie cllmax, is when grace tells her children, "Idon't know, I am no wiser than you." When they ask her, "Where are we?"
All through the movie, and presumably through her married life, Grace always had the right answer for everything. Grace knew the one correct meaning for any passage in the Bible.
Grace told the visiting spirit of her husband, "You did not go off to war to fight, you left to get away from ME!" This seems to be argumentative at first blush, but given Grace's uncmpromising style, there may have been more of a revelation in those words. Mrs. Mills tried to find ways to be lovingly accommodating within general principles of kindness.
It seems that you're bringing to question not the quality of acting but rather a judgement on character. You like Mrs. Mills' character better than Grace for various reasons which you voiced out in your plot descriptions. You say anyone could play a "mad" character. Yeah, anyone could play a mad character. Have the actor who played Mrs. Mills' play Nicole Kidman's part (Grace) and the movie would've stunk. If you mean to say that Nicole Kidman didn't do a good job acting out her part, then I disagree with you. She not only did a good job with her part but she brought charm to the movie that otherwise WOULD NOT have been there without her. And if anything else, having a cameo name like Nicole Kidman in any movie gives the movie "perceived value"--we don't think about it, but it's true. If Brad Pitt is in a movie, even if a movie stinks so bad, we still give "revere" it as a movie because Brad Pitt is in it. Whereas, if Joe Somebody was in it, it wouldn't even be in the big screen: "movie? what movie?" That's showbiz for you.
I should concede your being correct that Nicole Kidman brings charm to the character of Grace.
The movie brings up a few questions:
Is it a good idea to teach children to read Bible verses in some literal menaing context? Or is it better to encourage a discussion of possible meanings and present day ramificatins, to develop judgement for today?
Is it a good idea to punish children with punishments lasting days, or are shorter punsihments or loss of privileges better?
Is it a good idea to with drw privileges in anger or better to have things spelled out in advance?
Is it a good idea to keep changing the rules as you go for children, as your mood changes, or is it better to settle on a set of rules, and change only carefully?
What is the after life, and how will we experience ourselves and others?
When there is something that is annoying us, is a shotgun the best method of expression?
How should we judge trustworhtiness of character?
These are some of the questions that the movie answers in some form, but indirectly and not clearly.
Will we be able to offer someone a cup of tea in the afterlife?
I still enjoy re-watching the movie as something to go comforably to sleep with.