Running Time 112 minutes
Directed by Marc Evans
Written by Angela Pell
Starring Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman
Sigourney Weaver is on a roll. In the footprints of her very funny turn as the network programming executive from hell in The TV Set, she now returns in the peculiar new Canadian film Snow Cake, giving a sensitive and nerve-wracking performance as Linda, a woman with the mind of a 12-year-old, trying to function in a world of cruel adults. As an autistic woman who lives in Wawa, Ontario, she’s the female equivalent of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, only her obsession is with snow—watching it, rolling in it, packing it in the freezer and especially eating it. God only knows what she does in August, but in the wintry wasteland of her small hometown hamlet on the north shore of Lake Superior, she’s happier than a reindeer.
Meanwhile, tragedy strikes when a sullen, withdrawn man named Alex (Alan Rickman), recently released from prison and on his way to Winnipeg, picks up a chatty, punky waif named Vivienne, who is hitchhiking her way home in the snow. The first tremor of an odd friendship is just beginning to start when, out of the blue, they are broadsided by a huge truck. In the violent collision, the girl dies instantly, and the driver escapes without a scratch. Riddled with guilt, Alex swings out of his way to visit her mother, the eccentric Linda. When cold, stoic, uptight Alex meets the high-functioning, non-stop talkaholic Linda with her bunk bed, her phobias about germs and symmetry, and her passion for ecstatically eating “snow cakes”, it’s not a relationship fated to live happily ever after, even in a wacko ward. No one can wear shoes in Linda’s house, or enter her kitchen. She can’t stand to be touched or spoken to without permission. He just wants to sneak out of town without hurting her feelings. But it is hard to see just where Linda’s feelings begin or end, and almost impossible to define them. Like Rapunzel, she finally lets down her hair, lowers the drawbridge and brings Alex into her life. And after what seems like forever, Alex confesses why he was in prison. But if you’re looking for the big Kleenex moment when they grow and learn and share, forget it. The closest she ever comes to emotion is this: “Put your arms around me and squeeze me really hard, but don’t touch me with your hands!” Then it’s back to her shadow puppets and fascination with anything that sparkles. The theme that we’re all powerless in life’s struggle is not explored with much complexity.
Directed by Marc Evans, Snow Cake suffers from the same faults that plague most Canadian films: It drones itself to death with the pace of a drunken ant, and the ending takes longer than to arrive than Christmas morning. The odd-couple premise is contrived, and there’s something superficial in the easily solved dilemmas of two quirky, troubled souls. (In a world of fear and regret, why does God always protect the village idiots?) We want to see if sadness or grief can reach Linda, who lives only in the moment and thinks nothing of tomorrow. And it would be nice to see if iceman Alex can melt down some of his own baggage. Disappointment flourishes, but watching the stars work overtime to sustain interest in two bizarre characters that run out of steam before the projector runs out of film is not entirely without pleasure. They are polar opposites, but Ms. Weaver, in a change of pace from her usual tough, ballsy roles, is a better match for the prissy-mouthed Mr. Rickman than her sexy next-door neighbor (Carrie-Anne Moss), who may or may not be a prostitute—in a movie as obtuse as Snow Cake, it’s hard to tell.