First off, I have to state that after viewing this film, I stumbled straight to the bar to down several stiff drinks, just to wash the unpleasantness from my psyche. Even in my vodka soaked haze, I still had to shudder: “Downloading Nancy” is an excruciating experience.
Albert Stockwell (Rufus Sewell) comes home to find that his wife Nancy isn’t there, but she has left a note saying she has gone to visit friends in Baltimore. Where Nancy (Maria Bello) has really gone, however, is to meet up with a stranger (Jason Patric) she has met on the internet. Only days later, when Nancy has yet to call, does Albert start unraveling the dark truth.
The film is told through a series of flashbacks, all illuminating Nancy’s state of mind. With her husband, we witness her singularly unhappy marriage. Albert revels in the dullness of their traditional home, from it’s cheesy oak furniture to it’s plastic covered couches. In fact, he is so absorbed in practicing his putting in the rec room that he fails to notice his wife’s habit of cutting on herself like a Cuisinart. When we witness Nancy with her concerned therapist (Amy Brenneman), we discover her reasons for self-mutilation, and the damage runs pretty deep. Salvation for Nancy comes in the form of Louis, the man she has met over the internet, and their kinky sex leads them down an increasingly self-destructive path.
Some critics might claim that detractors of the film dislike it based on its “controversial” material; my problem with the movie is that everyone in it is just so damn unlikable. With the exception of Brenneman (replicating her part in “Private Practice”), every character is utterly unsympathetic. Nancy, the character whom we should care about the most, lashes out at those who try to help her, including her therapist whom she mercilessly taunts in a little girl lost, sing-song voice that smacks of meanness. Albert is not much better, as his regret stems not so much from his neglect of Nancy as it does from the collapse of his “perfect” life. Louis, played by Jason Patric, is basically the reincarnation of the actor’s role as the abusive, sociopathic Cary in “Your Friends & Neighbors,” only projected ten years into the future. Though the cast consists of competent, accomplished talent, it’s virtually impossible to invest in any of the film’s dour participants.
“Downloading Nancy” is a singularly joyless, soulless venture. Drained of all color and hope, it leaves only bleakness and despair in its wake. Director Johan Renck portrays the world as a claustrophobic place of unrelenting pain in which death may be the only escape. I’ve found another: don’t watch the film.