Peacock discussion *SPOILERS*

Psychological thriller about a quiet bank clerk
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JerseyDevil65
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May 13, 2010 3:52 am

Although this movie is a blatant rip off of Psycho, I liked it. The acting was top notch, especially Cillian Murphy.

I liked Ellen's character, I felt bad for her, how hard her life must have been to make her do the things that she was forced to do.

I'm glad they went with the ending of Maggie leaving wih Jake instead of the alternate ending.
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May 23, 2010 4:20 pm

Hmm...the lack of replies and posts in general on this movie would seem to indicate a lack of interest for it. For those who saw it, what did you think?

I think this movie isn't particularly good, and I can understand why it never found a distributor or even played at film festivals. I think the producers realized that it wasn't a good movie and therefore never submitted it into the film festival circuit because they just knew that it wasn't going to go over well. Films go into the film festival route for two reasons, really:

1) To find a distributor
2) Of if it already has a distributor, to generate publicity and buzz and anticipation for the official release of the film

There are some good ideas in the film, but overall, there are just too many plot holes and gaps in logic for it work. Also, the execution of those ideas fell short.

For those interested in reading the script and to read additional commentary on the film (some people were able to attend test screenings a while back), go here:

http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2009/05/peacock.html

To me, Maggie, Ellen's character, isn't really a well developed character in her own right, and is just there as a plot device. Maggie's actions are completely contradictory, and are only there to service the direction of the plot. And the plot as it regards her, does her no favors:

- Maggie is raped by John at the coercion of his mother
- She never reports the rape
- She becomes pregnant as a result of the rape and still associates with her main rapist, John's mother, by accepting child support money
- Instead of going to the local women's shelter, run by Fanny (Susan Sarandon), and getting emotional and financial support, she resorts to turning tricks and prostituting herself some more in order to make additional money to support herself and her son, Jake.
- She has family in Wisconsin, but instead of asking them for help and funds to leave the town of Peacock, she stays at a crap job, and turns tricks on the side in a vain attempt to raise the money by herself

So...WTF much?

Since Ellen is such an ardent feminist, I'm completely shocked that she would accept such a role, let alone think this screenplay is something special.

Your thoughts?
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May 23, 2010 5:52 pm

When I initially heard that Ellen was attached to this movie the buzz seemed to suggest it was going to be a psychological thriller, a la "Hard Candy". I envisioned a two-hander with Ellen's character battling with Cillian's character - ultimately with her bringing things to head and causing some sort of resolution. I envisioned a vigorous back and forth between these two. Well the actual movie was way off from this. Maggie seemed simply there to help John/Emma rather passively remember the past - a plot device.
Having said all this, I thought Cillian's performance was excellent and he obviously had put a lot of work into his Emma/John characterizations.
So overall I guess I was disappointed in the movie because it fell short of my expectations for Ellen's part. It seems to me that the director/producers were never clear about the type of movie they were making. In the end it seemed to me like a rather mild drama rather than the "Hitchcockian" thriller I was hoping for.
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May 24, 2010 12:16 am

Yup, a lot of people are saying the same thing, that this movie is searching for an identity as much as the main character of John/Emma! It seems to be having its own identity crisis and doesn't know what type of movie it wants to be. Is it a Hitchcockian thriller, or is it a suspense/drama/tragedy hybrid?

I do agree with you that Cillian Murphy was very good in his dual roles. Before I actually saw Peacock, I had watched Breakfast on Pluto, where Cillian plays a transexual, and well, there his acting was much more flamboyant. Therefore I initially thought that his performance in Peacock was going to be terrible, and that was the reason why the movie was having such a hard time finding distribution.

In the end, Cillian's acting saved this movie from being a total flop. I will say that the actors gave it their all and are able to make a bad movie watchable (if not enjoyable).

BTW, fun trivia fact: Both Ellen and Cillian have both played a character named "Kitty." She in X3, of course. And him in Breakfast on Pluto. Another weird fact, both Cillian and Marion Cottilard, who will be in Inception along with Ellen, have both shaved off their eyebrows for their films. Cillian shaved his eyebrows for Peacock, and Marion did it for La Vie en Rose.
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May 25, 2010 2:08 pm

I'll be honest, it wasn't the easiest film to watch or the easiest film to understand. However, I can see why Ellen wanted to be a part of it based on the impression she had after reading the script. It's a very complex story and not like the other psycho thrillers/split personality movies we have seen before. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unanswered questions - way too much for my taste - and many things that can be interpreted in more than one way. Don't get me wrong, I like when a movie doesn't answer all the questions, but the audience should be able to get the basic points and that's not easy here. There are only subtle hints, no obvious answers.

First off, tell me if my interpretation of the last scene is correct: After Emma took the snapshot of Jake, she has a flashback and thinks of John's photo which was taken the same way. She realizes that the whole story could happen again, i.e. that Jake could have the same fate as John one day. And this is the reason why she turns Maggie and Jake away though she suggested they can stay at the shelter at first.

Now, here are a few things that doesn't make any sense to me:

1) We learn John's mother passed way one year before the movie takes place and she was sending checks to Maggie (probably to keep her quiet or at least to pay for John's son). Why did Maggie visit John and ask for money after one year? Why at that time / after the train has crashed into his backyard? Why didn't she do that earlier? Also it was certainly no secret that John is working at the Peacock State Bank, so she could meet him there at any time.

2) Why doesn't nobody knows that Maggie and John have a child? If I remember it correctly, Peacock used to be a very small town where everybody knows everybody else and there's even a birth certificate so someone must know the truth.

3) How did Emma know how to drive since she never left the house before? Admittedly, she wasn't very good at it and needed a little advice from Maggie, but basically she was able to do so. And what about the driving licence (according to Wikipedia the first driver's licensing law went into effect in the USA on August 1, 1910)? A responsible person like Emma would never drive without such a license.

4) I think it's not authentic that Maggie is able to have an eye-to-eye conversation with someone who raped her - regardless if he was forced to do it or not. She mentions she had a very hard time and wants to get out of the town in order to start a new life. So why isn't she mad at John? Okay, she needs the money and likely doesn't want to confront him with the things happened in the past, but I can't understand she had no anger in his presence.

5) In this context, how exactly did John's mother make John have sex with Maggie if he was so against it? How was John able to perform if he was so upset and crying about it?

6) Why didn't Maggie call the police and tell them everything after the rape happened?

7) I believe that Emma is a manifestation of his mother's personality which was created on the day of her death. I mean Emma wears his mother's old clothes, makes breakfast for John and does the laundry and chores. Plus, she even leaves notes for him like mother (go to the market, for example). Why else would she use Jake to recreate the snapshot of John? She even gives him his old toy plane and dresses him up the same way. I'm wondering who the dominant personality is. John says he is the man of the house and Emma can't make any decision (participating in the rally). Furthermore, we learn that John always eats breakfast at 8:15 AM, so there seems to be a fixed circulation of the personalities. However, does Emma decide to give John control of the body or is it John who makes Emma disappear? I think the first idea is correct. After the train crashed John didn't go to work one day because Emma decided to visit the shelter or finally clean up the room where everything started.

Nevertheless, I like Murphy's performance and I even think Ellen made the best out of it although she only had a few lines and it was a bit weird that the child was half as tall as his mother. Unfortunately, I can't say something positive about the supporting cast. Surandon's and Pullman's performances were solid, but just like the rest their character were rather needless and didn't contributed anything (or at least something really useful) to the main plot at all.
Strawberry_Letter23 wrote:- Maggie is raped by John at the coercion of his mother
- She never reports the rape
- She becomes pregnant as a result of the rape and still associates with her main rapist, John's mother, by accepting child support money
- Instead of going to the local women's shelter, run by Fanny (Susan Sarandon), and getting emotional and financial support, she resorts to turning tricks and prostituting herself some more in order to make additional money to support herself and her son, Jake.
- She has family in Wisconsin, but instead of asking them for help and funds to leave the town of Peacock, she stays at a crap job, and turns tricks on the side in a vain attempt to raise the money by herself
I agree with all your points which are major plot holes in my point of view. The current user IMDb rating of 6.2 out of 10 is more than justified :sweating2:
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May 25, 2010 4:00 pm

Dominik wrote: First off, tell me if my interpretation of the last scene is correct: After Emma took the snapshot of Jake, she has a flashback and thinks of John's photo which was taken the same way. She realizes that the whole story could happen again, i.e. that Jake could have the same fate as John one day. And this is the reason why she turns Maggie and Jake away though she suggested they can stay at the shelter at first.
Yes - it seemed to me that instead of Emma/John we now have Emma/ Potential Mother at the end. Emma generally acted like John's wife - leaving sweet notes and showing caring touches in preparing breakfast. She also wanted a child to love. At the end, Emma's genuine love for Jake is now in opposition to the possible emergence of the Mother. So she sacrifices her feelings for Jake to ensure his safety. I think the alternate ending left this as ambiguous but the actual ending cleared it up.

One thing I was not clear on: was Maggie totally innocent when she was raped? I got the impression she was a prostitute at the time and had been paid by John's mother to perform the act. Clearly, though, the act involved some unspeakable things and coercion which constituted rape - payment or not.
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May 26, 2010 4:44 am

I'll be honest, it wasn't the easiest film to watch or the easiest film to understand. However, I can see why Ellen wanted to be a part of it based on the impression she had after reading the script. It's a very complex story and not like the other psycho thrillers/split personality movies we have seen before. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unanswered questions - way too much for my taste - and many things that can be interpreted in more than one way. Don't get me wrong, I like when a movie doesn't answer all the questions, but the audience should be able to get the basic points and that's not easy here. There are only subtle hints, no obvious answers.

First off, tell me if my interpretation of the last scene is correct: After Emma took the snapshot of Jake, she has a flashback and thinks of John's photo which was taken the same way. She realizes that the whole story could happen again, i.e. that Jake could have the same fate as John one day. And this is the reason why she turns Maggie and Jake away though she suggested they can stay at the shelter at first.
I agree that it wasn't the easiest film to watch or understand. Though personally, I have a harder time watching American Crime because of the heinous subject matter - not that there aren't heinous elements in Peacock, but they are implied and never shown. I don't mind open interpretation or ambiguous endings, but Peacock had a lot of problems, and as you said, with a lot of things hinted at but never fully confirmed.

I completely agree with your interpretation of the scene. As Emma takes Jake's picture, she realizes that she's acting out the exact type of behavior that John's (and hers as well, obviously) mother exhibited. In fact, that's why there was such a parallel drawn between the picture of young John and the picture of young Jake. Emma taking the picture is her ephiphany moment. It is here that she realizes that the severe abuse that the Mother created can be recreated in her and that Jake is in real danger. It was made clear that Emma had plans to try adopt Jake, and that's why she wanted Maggie to stay in Peacock. The last remaining spark of decency grabs hold, and she quickly gives Maggie the money and forces her to leave Peacock. This way, Jake will be safely out of her reach should her darker more selfish and abusive tendencies emerge again.
Now, here are a few things that doesn't make any sense to me:

1) We learn John's mother passed way one year before the movie takes place and she was sending checks to Maggie (probably to keep her quiet or at least to pay for John's son). Why did Maggie visit John and ask for money after one year? Why at that time / after the train has crashed into his backyard? Why didn't she do that earlier? Also it was certainly no secret that John is working at the Peacock State Bank, so she could meet him there at any time.
The entire rape plot is ridiculous and built on sand - if you start to analyse it, you realize that Peacock is a house built on a shaky and crumbling foundation. It's never explained why John's mother wanted him to have sex. Did she want him to sire a child so that she could raise him/her? And if so, then why give money to Maggie and never bring Jake into their lives? Why stay in the room and coerce and watch your son rape a young woman? A heinous act compounded by even more perversion. When you really get down to it, it just wasn't Maggie that was raped, it was John as well. From Maggie's speech, we are told that the mother stayed in the room and basically forced John to have sex with Maggie and that John was an unwilling participant.

As to your original point, if Maggie was so focused on leaving Peacock, why didn't she make a play for the money sooner? You would think that since Maggie was in such desparate straits that she would have been more assertive in her attempts to gain more funds. Instead, she decides that she rather prostitute herself instead of asking her child's father for financial support.
2) Why doesn't nobody knows that Maggie and John have a child? If I remember it correctly, Peacock used to be a very small town where everybody knows everybody else and there's even a birth certificate so someone must know the truth.
Population of 800, so we are told by the Sheriff. For a town of such a small size, and considering the social mores of the time, which I'm guessing is mid 1950s or early 1960s, it certainly would have been the talk of the town that a young unmarried woman became pregnant. As for the birth certificate, I suppose that the legal document would not be accessible at the courthouse of records. Another explanation is that it seems that Maggie was the town "badgirl" and as such was marginalized by the people of Peacock and therefore no one wanted to associate with her or pry into her personal affairs/matters. The doctor and the county clerk at the courthouse knew the truth but did not blab/gossip about it to others. The doctor would be bound to silence due to the doctor/patient confidentiality clause, and the courthouse clerk either didn't care or took pity on her and never told anyone her secret.
3) How did Emma know how to drive since she never left the house before? Admittedly, she wasn't very good at it and needed a little advice from Maggie, but basically she was able to do so. And what about the driving licence (according to Wikipedia the first driver's licensing law went into effect in the USA on August 1, 1910)? A responsible person like Emma would never drive without such a license.
Um, I think you're picking on a trivial nit, Dom. ;) Emma doesn't have/need a license because she never drove a car till the night Maggie arrived with Jake. Emma knows how to drive because John knows how to drive, though admittedly, he prefers to ride his bike most of the time. Remember, at one point, John, in desparation to get Maggie and Jake out of Peacock drives the car. And later, in attempt to stay away from his house, which he knows will trigger the Emma personality, drives to a motel.
4) I think it's not authentic that Maggie is able to have an eye-to-eye conversation with someone who raped her - regardless if he was forced to do it or not. She mentions she had a very hard time and wants to get out of the town in order to start a new life. So why isn't she mad at John? Okay, she needs the money and likely doesn't want to confront him with the things happened in the past, but I can't understand she had no anger in his presence.
I agree, she should harbour as much resentment towards John as to his mother, the instigator of the rape. And this is where a crucial element of plot just fails so terribly. I find it hard to believe that two young people in good health couldn't overpower one single old woman. Maggie being slight may not have been able to physically overpower John's mother, but the two of them together could have, and the rape need not have happened. As to why Maggie doesn't fear John or harbour resentment towards him (aside from the script calling for it), I suppose it can be explained away by the fact that Maggie realizes John is as much a victim of rape that she was.
5) In this context, how exactly did John's mother make John have sex with Maggie if he was so against it? How was John able to perform if he was so upset and crying about it?
Men can be raped. Though it's difficult for men to attain an erection while in extreme fear/duress, it is possible. Given that John's mother was such a dominant presence in his life, and that she was so controlling and he so weak, I think that he was able to perform and do the dirty deed.
6) Why didn't Maggie call the police and tell them everything after the rape happened?
A very good question. Most victims of rape do not report it right away, if ever. They are too traumatized and/or ashamed. If Maggie was already a prostitute, then the social mores of the time could have been counterproductive to helping her. The local authorities could have said that "she had it coming." However, I tend to take it at face value when Maggie says that she only agreed to meet John, and that she only accepted money for doing that, not for anything else.
7) I believe that Emma is a manifestation of his mother's personality which was created on the day of her death. I mean Emma wears his mother's old clothes, makes breakfast for John and does the laundry and chores. Plus, she even leaves notes for him like mother (go to the market, for example). Why else would she use Jake to recreate the snapshot of John? She even gives him his old toy plane and dresses him up the same way. I'm wondering who the dominant personality is. John says he is the man of the house and Emma can't make any decision (participating in the rally). Furthermore, we learn that John always eats breakfast at 8:15 AM, so there seems to be a fixed circulation of the personalities. However, does Emma decide to give John control of the body or is it John who makes Emma disappear? I think the first idea is correct. After the train crashed John didn't go to work one day because Emma decided to visit the shelter or finally clean up the room where everything started.
Absolutely. He even stated that he met Emma the day his mother died. Due to his fractured psyche, and to his child like need to be cared for by a mother figure, his mind snaps and creates Emma, a maternal stand-in for the best aspects of his mother. She cooks and cleans for him, making him breakfast and lunch, and cleaning up after him. Since she is modeled after his mother, who was such a dominant figure in his life, Emma is also by virtue of her stand-in position of faux mother, the dominant personality as well. Initially created to just be robo mom, once Emma interacts with others, she gets a foothold into the real world, and starts to explore it. Before the train derailment, when no one knew of Emma, John's mind compartmentalized her, and trotted her out at set times, usually to make him breakfast, do the morning chores...etc. During the work day and early evening hours, John was the dominant personality. It's only after Emma has actually interacted with other real people that she starts to fully emerge.
Nevertheless, I like Murphy's performance and I even think Ellen made the best out of it although she only had a few lines and it was a bit weird that the child was half as tall as his mother. Unfortunately, I can't say something positive about the supporting cast. Surandon's and Pullman's performances were solid, but just like the rest their character were rather needless and didn't contributed anything (or at least something really useful) to the main plot at all.
I like Murphy's performance, and I do agree that Ellen did the best she could out of a bare bones character. I still do think it's one of her lesser performances, though. As for the rest of the cast, their characters were also plot devices too. Only there to serve the plot, alas. They turned in competent performances for a lack lustre script.
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May 28, 2010 12:15 am

The plot did leave some holes:

Maggie was not raped....Actually, John was the one raped. We do not know for sure...but it sure sounded like Maggie and John's mom had some deal in the works to have John father a child. Note that the mom sent Maggie money for Jake until he died

Maggie probably left Peacock to have the child....but came back when the checks stopped coming from John's mom after her death. I got this feeling Maggie did not hang around Peacock when she got pregnant. Its quite possible Maggie did not know where exactly to find John after the train wreck....also, considering this is the 1950s or 1960s....it was not cool to go around as a young mom and claim someone got you preggers (this is not like Juno)....and who in Peacock would believe John was the father...

John felt more confortable as Emma....note that Emma became much more outgoing and stronger willed as the film went along. And yes, Emma/John knew that he was becoming like his mom when the photo of Jake was taken. He/she wanted to save his son.

Just my two cents...
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Jun 06, 2010 2:44 am

UCFRdWarrior wrote:The plot did leave some holes:

Maggie was not raped....Actually, John was the one raped. We do not know for sure...but it sure sounded like Maggie and John's mom had some deal in the works to have John father a child. Note that the mom sent Maggie money for Jake until he died

Maggie probably left Peacock to have the child....but came back when the checks stopped coming from John's mom after her death. I got this feeling Maggie did not hang around Peacock when she got pregnant. Its quite possible Maggie did not know where exactly to find John after the train wreck....also, considering this is the 1950s or 1960s....it was not cool to go around as a young mom and claim someone got you preggers (this is not like Juno)....and who in Peacock would believe John was the father...

John felt more confortable as Emma....note that Emma became much more outgoing and stronger willed as the film went along. And yes, Emma/John knew that he was becoming like his mom when the photo of Jake was taken. He/she wanted to save his son.

Just my two cents...
Interesting theory. I went back and re-watched the crucial admittance scene between Maggie and Emma. I disagree with your theory that only John was raped because:

a) Ellen plays the scene deadly serious, and there is no reason not to believe Maggie when she says that she only agreed to take money to meet John.

b) Maggie overtly says that she couldn't stop John's mother and that "she made him do horrible things." This strongly implies that Maggie was not there to have sexual relations with John. Also, given that it can take more than one try to get pregnant, I don't believe that Maggie and the Mother cooked up some plot to have John father a child from that one encounter. My take is that for whatever bizarre reason, the Mother decided that John should have sex. Knowing that John was extremely shy and not likely to be able to court a girl in town, she pays Maggie to just "meet" John. And once Maggie was in their house, she sets up the rape scenario.

Since so little is known about Maggie (or any of the other characters), what little we're shown on screen is all we have to draw our own conclusions. My personal take on Maggie is that she was a young uneducated woman that drifted into the town of Peacock. She probably came in looking for work and maybe even a little romance, perhaps looking to marry if she met the right fellow.

On a side note, you were right in that Maggie did not have Jake in Peacock. I paused the birth certificate scene on my dvd player, and the birth certificate says "City of Ladora, Nebraska." As to why the Mother sent money to Maggie for Jake, we'll never really know. My take is that it was "shut up" money; she was buying Maggie's silence about the rape. However, I disagree on Maggie not knowing how to find John after the train wreck. Peacock is a small town, with a population of only 800 or there abouts - she could have asked around and eventually found out where he lived. Also, Maggie obviously knew where John lived because she was taken to their house previously (i.e. the night of the rape). Maggie stayed away because that's what the money was for - to buy her silence and to keep Jake away from John. The mother probably did not want any gossip or scandal involving John, and if Maggie showed up pregnant and on their doorstep, people would likely start talking...

Anyway, just my 2 cents.
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Jul 22, 2010 9:40 pm

Took me forever to track this down so when I found it I was over the moon, but then a little disappointed. Obviously my main reason to actually watch it was purely because Ellen was in it, but she was barely around. Although her character was key to the story, she had around 45 minutes(?) screentime and her character was very unlikeable. Cilliam Murphy was insanely good as always and so was Ellen, but the story was just too unnerving and it didn't really leaving me thinking much about it afterwards. Pretty disappointed but it's not as bad as The Stone Angel.
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Aug 16, 2010 7:33 pm

Has just looked. And throughout all film dreamt that to John have made a lobotomy. Ellen was beatiful. But The main character was the schizophrenic.
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