The Cleanse

We all have our baggage, it is all part of being human!

Year Released : 2016

Director : Bobby Miller

Cast : Johnny Galecki, Anna Friel, Kyle Gallner, Angelica Huston, Kevin J O’Connor and Oliver Platt

Many years ago, when I was back in my early twenties, I loved the TV show ‘The Big Bang Theory’, and although my love of that show has turned into such apathy that I don’t even watch it anymore, I still find the cast quite likeable. Arguably the most obvious being Johnny Galecki, who I had previously seen in movies such as ‘The Opposite of Sex’.

Like the rest of the cast, he hasn’t successfully re-transitioned into movies, with his appearances in big movies being barely noteworthy. Galecki’s biggest film since the start of “Big Bang Theory” was the Justin Timberlake lead sci-fi movie “In Time”, which to be fair I did enjoy, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Galecki was even in it. Other than Jim Parson’s role in “Hidden Figures” and Simon Helberg’s supporting casting in “Florence Foster Jenkins”, you’d be forgiven for not being able to name a single film starring the principle cast of that show after it started.

Anyway, I digress, lets see if this was worth being on my “to watch” list for almost a year.

Plot

Paul (Galecki) is a depressed man that signs up for a retreat that promises to effectively restart your life. Whilst there he soon realises how much he needs to through to do so, including drinking foul tasting smoothies instead of any other type of food. The smoothies make him and the other cleansers feel ill. Eventually he vomits into the sink following on from finishing the last drink.

The next day his sink starts unleashing a black substance and the pipes are full of a strange substance. Upon further investigation there is a small creature alive within. Paul bonds with his, but fellow cleanser Maggie (Friel) really struggles with it and tries to leave. Long term cleanser Fredericks (O’Connor) is terrified of his monster and as time goes on, more and more mysterious things start happening, with the creatures mimicking those they came out of.

A decent “Big Bang” alumni film?

There is a a few things that I could say either way about “The Cleanse” in both a negative and positive light, but the biggest praise that I could give it is that it is one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen in years. I can’t recall seeing anything even remotely like it down the years, and I’ve seen a lot of weird and unusual movies. That being said, being unique doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good film, and unfortunately in this case I have to describe “The Cleanse” in that way.

I’m not saying that “The Cleanse” is a bad film at all, there are a few moments that made me chuckle somewhat, such as in the first few minutes when they say ‘if you don’t want to change your life for the better, you might as well leave now,’ and a woman actually does leave. There are a few times that expectations are subverted in that sort of way and that was a nice surprise.

Despite being unique and having expectation subversion, there isn’t really a lot going on unfortunately. There isn’t anything I could look at and take away as an important lesson. Obviously the moral is to get all of your negativity out of you and move on, but it is done in a way that makes it really hard to connect with that message on a personal level. Maggie’s character arc feels completely deflating when you realise what she has been hiding all of the way through, and come the end of what is a relatively short film, I didn’t really feel anything at all either way.

Other than Paul and Maggie, no characters are developed at all really, not even Kyle Gallner’s Eric, and the fact that I had to look up the name of the character played by Anjelica Huston says it all. You could take out pretty much all characters other than Paul and Maggie, and yet you’d be left with largely the same film.

Summary

Being unique is always a good thing, but when that is the only real selling point of a film then I can’t really justify giving it a positive review. You need to have more than simply a unique concept to be a good film, and this certainly fails.

“The Cleanse” certainly isn’t bad by any stretch, but it is a forgettable comedy-horror that has a flawed delivery of a moral message.

I’m not saying avoid the film, but certainly don’t go out of your way to watch it.

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