Vera Farmiga has cornered the market of mothers in crisis in recent years. She and Sam Rockwell battled their seemingly demonic spawn (although, it was far creepier because he wasn’t a supernatural hellion) in Joshua. In Running Scared, Farmiga braved an urban nightmare with co-star Paul Walker in support of an abused young neighbor caught up in a world of vicious crime and sexual exploitation.
And she’s proven to be more than a stock nurturer. When the chips are down, she’s ready and willing to take the white gloves off and go bare knuckles like a next generation version of Sigourney Weaver or Linda Hamilton. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax) subtly exploits this aspect of our unconscious appreciation of Farmiga in Orphan, his rote play on the contemporary intruder in the home thriller.
Kate (Farmiga) and husband John (Peter Sarsgaard), struggling to adjust to a stillbirth and an accident that nearly took the life of one of their two surviving children, decide to adopt an adorable Russian orphan named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), the bad wolf in Little Bo Peep’s dress. There are no surprises when Esther’s true intentions become apparent, not even when a twisted revelation about the child is sprung.
The movie races along its well-worn path to the apocalyptic face-off involving the newly determined and quite resourceful Kate. There might not be enough strong roles for women in Hollywood, but Farmiga asserts herself as a forceful woman, not ready to be orphaned by the paternalism of the industry. Grade: D