Return to Sender full movie review - Neglecting the Real Danger
Return to Sender is quite a weird concept. It's about a rape victim who seduces her rapist so she could conquer her trauma, and of course, lead to a revenge. It's queasy, but simple enough.
And a recipe of this strange idea won't be effective if it wasn't for Rosamund Pike, who was fresh from an Oscar nomination, by doing what she exactly did from that movie. It's fine by that, but unfortunately, the movie struggles defining the danger of this rather daring act. We can't exactly see who is much crazier or who has more of the darker intention, who is more clever and who is naive. This clashing mystery is supposed to make it more exciting and tense, but the movie loses its way by hardly acknowledging the scarier possibilities because both characters push the limits of their humanity.
The first act is honestly strong for a rather schlocky material. Sure, the direction still feels pretty B-rated, but the setup brings real potential for a compelling story arc. The rape doesn't only ruined the main character's sensibilities, it also kept her from leaving the house where the incident took place, being haunted by the trauma even more. The solution of her problem is just pretty weird. Sure, she is facing her own fears, trying to befriend with the worst person she knows, but it eventually neglects the augmented danger once she tries to make the rapist fall in love with her. This is the point where the characters shifts into being unbelievable.
The real tension must rely on questioning how is this a good idea to overcome her fears or getting the revenge she wanted. The movie doesn't likely make the two look in danger because they already seem too crazy to worry about their fate, that it might lead themselves to a fight scene or something. At least in Gone Girl, there is a sense of being dubious on Amy's plan. Here, Miranda seems to be too smug on what she's doing, that her eventual insanity is just a downright contrivance. Another comparison to Pike's other movie, the "big" scenes there are built with surprise. Here, even at a twisted scene, it just feels unexciting and even worse, predictable. Only the performances can level it up, somewhat. Rosamund Pike's better moments happen in the first act. The rest is like turning her into a larger caricature than she should be. The only good actor in the supporting is obviously Nick Nolte who has great moments with Pike which turn almost everything into a totally different, but better movie.
Return to Sender already feels uncomfortable in its concept; it turns a serious subject as a backdrop of a typical thriller. But even for its set pieces, the suspense almost felt nonexistent. The two conflicting characters may go nuts with nothing left to lose, but you just don't care about what point would it lead to their downfall. It's hard to get inserted into these characters. There is a sense of reality, at the same time, a forced insanity in the end. Gone Girl does have that intersection of realism and absurdity, but at least it was done with style, interesting commentary and genuine shock. Here, it's all standard campiness. It's not quite fun, not even to those who are seeking for more of Rosamund Pike being a sociopath and destroying some man's life.