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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
What She Did for Love
by Betty Jo Tucker

The Hole boasts a wickedly spellbinding performance by Thora Birch as a British teenager whose crush on a handsome classmate causes untold horror. Birch's superb work here proves she's one of the finest young actresses of her generation. Based on Guy Burt's cult novel, After the Hole, this unusual film drew me into the lives of the five students involved in a freakish prank, mostly because of Birch's uncanny ability to make her complex character come alive on screen.

The opening scene still haunts me. A disheveled student stumbles through the empty hall of a school building, reaches the telephone, dials a number, and then lets loose one of the most frightening screams I've ever heard. It gave me shivers! The student is Liz (Birch), who with three of her prep school friends (played by Keira Knightley, Laurence Fox and Desmond Harrington), decided to ditch the weekend field trip and hide in an abandoned bomb shelter to party and hang out together. However, what began as a fun adventure became a fight for survival when the friends discovered they were trapped inside the hole.

In flashbacks, we learn that Liz and Martin (Daniel Brocklebank), another classmate, arranged the entire scenario so that Liz could spend time with hunky Mike (Harrington). We also discover that what Liz tells her psychiatrist (Embeth Davidtz) might not be true.

What really happened? Where are the other three students? Is Liz as innocent as she seems? These questions emerge in an atmosphere of excruciating suspense, thanks to Nick Hamm's deft direction. Although I found some of the scenes inside the bunker too repetitive and crude, I never lost interest in Liz and in finding out what she would do next.

Birch has been excellent before, winning various acting awards and nominations for her screen performances. She received a Golden Globe nomination for Ghost World, and the San Diego Film Critics Society honored her with a Best Actress Award for that movie as well as with a Best Supporting Actress Award for American Beauty. Still, I believe Birch's acting in The Hole is the best of her career so far. She flashes those big green eyes at us like a new-born baby, and we naively root for her character. When Liz's dark side appears, Birch is just as convincing.         

Why The Hole didn't receive a theatrical release in the U.S. remains a mystery to me. But the DVD will be available on October 19, 2004. DVD bonus materials include deleted scenes, cast and crew bios, an image gallery, the director's commentary, and the theatrical trailer. 

(Released by Miramax Home Entertainment and rated "R" for language, some violence, sexuality/nudity and drug use. All DVD bonus materials are unrated.) 

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