I recently watched this movie for the first time and was interested in the unusual obsession of the main character, Walter Sparrow, played by Jim Carrey. He is convinced that everything around him can be explained by the number 23. It all begins when his wife finds an old book in a bookshop and upon reading it, he immediately identifies with the hero ‘Fingerling’ who he believes is remarkably like himself. Walter is a dogcatcher and that day has been bitten by a dog he was trying to catch. On the first page of the book it says “Beware the dog next door”.
Fingerling is a police detective – an occupation Walter considers to be close to his own. He befriends a suicidal blonde who says that her life, and that of her late father, have been ruined by the number 23 – – which is everywhere. Walter starts to examine his own circumstances and quickly becomes convinced that this is a real phenomenon. For example, he met his wife when he was 23. The date they met was September 13th (13+9) and they married on October 13th (10+13). Their house number is 1814 – aha I hear you say – these numbers only add up to 14!
Yes, but Walter figures that 1+8=9 and 9+14=23. Here lies the key. If we want to, we can probably find 23 everywhere just like Walter- or 24 or 25 as well, probably for that matter. What a normal person believes to be pure coincidence, an obsessed person considers ’cause and effect. ‘ At this stage, the film takes a dark turn as we learn that Fingerling eventually kills the love of his life and we fear for the safety of Walter’s wife, Agatha.
An online synopsis of the plot reveals how the movie is supposed to grab the audience at this point: Walter discovers that the book is actually a confession to a 15-year-old murder that he seems destined to repeat. He realizes he is becoming a danger to those around him, especially his family. The only way to save himself, to prevent the number 23 from driving him insane, to stop fate from turning him into a killer is to find the book’s author and uncover the truth. Is the curse real? Has the number 23 taken control of Walter’s destiny or is it all just the power of suggestion? Does Walter suffer from some kind of dementia or is there a killer out there waiting for justice?
How far will the number push him? Will it force him to become a killer? The answers will lead him to a truth more horrifying then he could have ever imagined. ‘ – (http://www. jimcarreyonline. com/recent/news. php? id=1013) I enjoyed the twists and turns of the movie, but upon researching further, I was surprised to see that the reviews were generally very critical. Wikipedia reveals that: o “The film has received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, with a current rating of 8% on Rotten Tomatoes” o “Jim Carrey was nominated for the 2008 Razzie Award for Worst Actor, for his performance.
Despite all this, the film still grossed $77 million at the box office worldwide. Studying many of the reviews, we can see that a common theme is that many viewers failed either to identify with the main character or to care what happens to him. This, in my opinion, is a fatal flaw in any movie – or book for that matter. We are usually presented with a hero or heroine and we follow their fortunes through the twists in the plot to see what will happen to them. For this to work, we must identify with the hero or heroine and be interested in their situation.
One of the main causes of not being bothered to read past the first chapter is often that the author has failed to draw us into this fictional world. Here is a typical extract of a review about ‘The Number 23’: “Jim Carrey has been sharp in a number of non-comedic roles, but this lurid, overheated, and self-serious potboiler is not one of them. The Number 23 is clumsy, unengaging, and mostly confusing. ” – (www. rottentomatoes. com/m/the_number_23/ -) The complaint that the movie is ‘unengaging’ is common. In my introduction, I pointed out that obsessed people can easily imagine connections between random events that others find coincidence.
It can easily become boring to listen to the paranoid obsession of someone you consider has just lost sanity. If that happens, it then also becomes difficult to continue to identify with the hero or care what happens to him. I believe that this is a key factor in enjoying or hating the movie. For my part, I was willing to be swept along and I enjoyed watching the movie, but I can also understand why others did not. I also believe that Jim Carrey is such a popular comic actor that the general public find his serious attempts at acting to be a waste of his unique talent.
It is not as if one day he will ever be compared to Pacino or De Niro. We want to him to stick to what he is good at and that is making us all laugh. It is not unlike Michael Jordan’s decision to stop playing basketball and start playing professional baseball. He was probably the greatest ever basketball player, but never more than an average baseball player. The public was always impatient for him to go back to his true calling. By the way, guess what was Jordan’s shirt number? You guessed it right, 23!