To set the scene: Liu Xing (Liu Ye) stands in front of Hubble University’s panel giving his theory on an expansion to his professor’s model of the origin of the universe. Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn) is Xing’s professor and on the panel as well. Reiser is quick to squash the dreams of his once favorite student because he has realized that his student is starting to surpass him. He says that he is over his head and in uncharted waters. Another one of the men on the panel leans over and says to Reiser, “Maybe we are over are heads.” I couldn’t agree more when it comes to discussing this film.
“Dark Matter” is the story of one Liu Xing, who is an overly bright student from Beijing who has been given the opportunity to work in America under his cosmologist hero, Jacob Reiser. The university is also a stomping ground to Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep), who tasks herself with bringing over Chinese students to hopefully make breakthroughs in science. Joanna takes a liking to Xing when he explains to her his breakthrough theory of dark matter in space. Soon Xing’s work surpasses anything is hero Reiser has ever done and therefore, out of jealousy, Reiser decides to stop Xing from progressing further. This sends Xing into a downward spiral, culminating in an extreme cinematic resolution.
“Dark Matter,” directed by Chen Shi-Sheng, displays how treading in foreign territory, both geographically and cosmically, can be the biggest obstacle you may ever face. Going in, I knew nothing about this film and unfairly, when I heard Meryl Streep was in this movie, I assumed it would be a bloated dramatic waste of a few hours. I was, however, wrong. The film started out as this quasi-comedy and I enoyed all of the quirks. Meryl Streep was absolutely amazing in the film as Joanna and I thought she had this great odd chemistry with Liu Ye’s character. Unfortunately, the tone shifted and the film just went downhill, finishing with one of the most ridiculous endings, for the direction the tale had taken, I have ever seen.
Ok, maybe I went too far. I won’t say it is the most ridiculous, but it was definitely up there with film school cliche type of endings that was just uncalled for with the rest of the film, the seeming need to add edginess for edginess’s sake. Supposedly this is based on a true story but I feel that cinematically the transition can be rough. Granted I know nothing about the true story behind this, but I have tried to look it up (with no results). In my opinion, the ending was the biggest mistake the director could have made with this film.
This is a great film, to a point. Unfortunately the ending doesn’t deliver, making the entire feature an exercise is wasted potential. But maybe that’s the point.