No Such Thing falls way short of the standards set by its writer-director, Hal Hartley (The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, Henry Fool). What's this indie maverick doing spinning a tale about an Icelandic Monster (Robert John Burke) who kills a TV crew and becomes a new media star when Beatrice (Sarah Polley), the TV journalist fiancee of a murdered crew member, brings him back to New York? Don't fret. Hartley hasn't traded in his low-key style and droll wit to go the Godzilla route. The minute Beatrice is manipulated into a "Beauty and the Beast" situation by her tabloid-minded Boss (Helen Mirren, deftly goosing a stock role) — Julie Christie performs quieter wonders as a sympathetic doctor — we know we're in Hartley territory. That's the problem: Talk! Talk! Talk! The Monster, despite his black moods and desire to die, is a veritable chatterbox. And Beatrice, played with sly nuance by Polley, meets him on his own philosophical turf. Hartley wants to use the monster metaphor to breathe new life into his trademarked debate on the fucked-up nature of existence. Does he succeed? Not with a movie this plodding, peevish and gimmicky. Is it fun to watch him try? Me, I'll take failed ambition over hack efficiency any day.
From The Archives Issue 894: April 25, 2002