‘St. Cloud’ is No Saint

Walking into the movie theatre, I didn’t know what to expect from “Charlie St. Cloud,” an adaptation of the 2004 novel “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud” by Ben Sherwood. Since the film is directed by Burr Steers (“How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”), I knew I could expect something interesting.

Unfortunately for Steers, people seeking to learn the story of Charlie St. Cloud should stick to the novel.

We learn of Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) and his brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) who have built an impenetrable bond centered around sailing and the Boston Red Sox. On the night after the two win a sailing competition, Charlie and Sam get in a car accident.

While Charlie survives through electrical resuscitation, Sam unfortunately dies. As he is left with the ability to communicate with his dead brother, Charlie finds himself torn between the guilt of reality and the comfort of his past.
A story about two brothers torn apart by death, “Charlie St. Cloud” should be a serious movie with a powerful lesson, and this is where Steers’ film fails. He attempts to reach the level of sadness in “Titanic” as well as the humor in “American Pie,” and falls short of both. The fact that he tries to combine them worsens the movie.

We receive neither realism nor humor; Steers should have focused on the seriousness of the story rather than trying to catch the attention of short-witted teenagers. His failure to do so causes Charlie’s struggle to take a backseat.

The film begins well with the portrayal of the St. Cloud family, which consists of a single mother and her two beloved sons. However, the plot is soon taken over by teen movie clichés.

The teenage humor rears its ugly head and the typical “unexpected” romance between the mysterious, troubled male and the pure, successful female takes place. The movie goes downhill the moment Charlie beats up a guy in a bar for his dead brother – a scene which tries to appeal to the fighter in all of us, or at least to those who like such subject matter. After that, the movie commits suicide when Charlie takes his shirt off in a very Jacob Black-ian manner. At least teenage girls are pleased.

Efron gives a fair acting performance. He fits the handsome, troubled young adult role well and does not over act. His best scene occurs in the ambulance when he learns that his brother Sam is dead. Efron portrays the grief successfully and makes it believable. When he is speaking to Sam, his acting is truly natural. The two make it work and the relationship comes off as genuine.

Tahan gives a great performance as Sam St. Cloud. Sam’s admiration for his older brother is genuine and the audience truly feels the love that he has for his older brother.

Amanda Crew plays Tess, Charlie’s love interest. Her acting is fine and she adequately portrays the unexpected but daring female role.

As always, Kim Basinger gives a solid performance as the mother of the St. Clouds. Ray Liotta seems to be the wrong actor to cast as the character who not only saves Charlie’s life, but also steers him in the correct direction. He does not come off as very emotional which is the point of his character.

Despite Steers’s negligence to make the film heartfelt and emotional, he does create a very visually beautiful movie.

Camera shots focus largely on the beautiful ocean and the refreshing woods. Even the graveyard was clean and gave off a feeling of comfort rather than fear.

On the other hand, the editing is terrible. It is inconsistent, which leads to confusion – one has to take a moment to figure out the movie while watching it.

Although the acting is commendable and visuals alluring, “Charlie St. Cloud” disappoints because it does not place predominance on the story, which is about Charlie’s struggle after he is separated from his brother by death.

Steers focuses too much on making the movie appealing to the mainstream audience by utilizing plain humor and clichéd situations. Had he not been preoccupied with catering to the masses, “Charlie St. Cloud” would have been a much better film.