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April 28, 2012 | 11:50 a.m. CST
Dear Mr. Cusack,
Please go back to standing outside second-story windows with a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel held high over your head. Or, if you won’t do that (you are getting kind of old), please return to your record store and discuss your bad breakups. It would even be okay if you wanted to keep courting Julia Roberts or battling ghosts in a haunted hotel room. Anything, anything, but pretending to be Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven.
It’s just that you’re not really believable as the macabre writer who penned gruesome short stories like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Mask of the Red Death and The Tell-Tale Heart. Even when audiences look at you, gaunt, goateed and in mid-19th century garb, they just don’t see it. Your vituperative outbursts don’t evoke Poe as much as Nicholas Cage losing his marbles over and over in that YouTube video. Granted, when you’re quiet and brooding, it’s almost possible to see Poe under those droopy eyes of yours, but most of the time you don’t quite commit to the high drama and violent emotion of the film.
It’s not all bad though. Your costumes and those of your costars are fantastic. The foggy forests and crepuscular cobblestone streets of 19th century Baltimore provide the perfect backdrop for a tale about the man credited with inventing the modern detective story. Even the historical inaccuracies (standard in a non-biographical film about a person who actually existed) and your verbal anachronisms are forgivable and entertaining.
The plot, which revolves around a series of murders that seem to mimic some of Poe’s more gruesome short stories, is exciting and quite suspenseful at times, and the moody atmosphere of the film complements this twisted tale nicely. Some of your audiences will no doubt be surprised by the eventual reveal, but the denouement of the film drags a bit. We know you die at the end, so why prolong it?
Complaints about your characterization aside, your movie was enjoyable, Mr. Cusak. It’s just a shame that you were in it.