Beam K-Pax Another Ending

hether or not you like the new Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges film K-Pax, I guarantee you will walk out of the theater completely unsatisfied.

K-Pax is the type of science-fiction fantasy that during its first 115 minutes poses numerous questions about its main character and then in the last five minutes decides it doesn't need to answer any of them.

Spacey has said he likes that the film leaves itself open to interpretation by the audience. Interpretation is one thing. What K-Pax does is tell you that all possible answers to its questions are wrong and that it is not going to explain to you what is really happening. In doing so, the ultra-ambiguous ending succeeds in annoying the hell out of every single person in the theater.

In case you haven't seen the previews, Spacey plays Prot, a mysterious being who claims he is from the planet K-Pax. As Dr. Mark Powell, the New York City psychiatrist charged to Prot's case, Bridges thinks he can try to figure out the mysterious past behind Prot and his claims.

So is Prot an alien or isn't he?

Damned if I know. Apparently, the filmmakers want to leave this up to our interpretation.

This is the fatal flaw of an otherwise solid and by-the-books late-October, early-November film.

I know: Not only am I judging a film by its ending, but also by its release date. Nonetheless, K-Pax fits it's opening date to a tee. The late fall and early winter is traditionally Academy Award season, when the movie studios unveil their Oscar bait. Usually, the real contenders start rolling out in the middle of November and continue to build up until Christmas. Though there are exceptions (like last year's Almost Famous), K-Pax exemplifies the type of film that doesn't quite get or deserve the sought-after November-December billing.

The acting is certainly strong. Spacey and Bridges are two of the best of their generations, and their interplay during their sessions is fun to watch. I also loved how thorough Prot is with his descriptions of his home planet and how easy it is to believe him. Though Dr. Powell's struggling marriage--the major subplot of the film and his character's "arc"--is old hat, the chemistry between him and his wife (Mary McCormack) is very real.

The oddball collection of Prot's fellow mental patients at the New York City hospital where most of the film takes place is also surprisingly appropriate. None of them are too outlandish in their quirkiness, and it's not completely ridiculous that Prot might just be able to help some of them.

Though at times incredibly heavy-handed, Charles Leavitt's script adapted from Gene Brewer's novel is harmless and avoids the trap of slamming all of Prot's observations about Earth and human nature down our throats.

Perhaps the screenplay's only misstep--other than the ridiculous ending, of course--is the use of hypnosis as means to unearth Prot's history before he returns back to K-Pax. I'm not discrediting the general usage of hypnosis, but this couldn't have been the only psychiatric method that Dr. Powell could have used to make a breakthrough with Prot.

This letdown is easy to pass over, however, when the ending comes around. Let's just say I warned you.



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