Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jaume Collet-Serra|
|Produced by||Joel Silver |
Jennifer Davisson Killoran
|Screenplay by||David Leslie Johnson|
|Story by||Alex Mace|
|Starring||Vera Farmiga |
|Music by||John Ottman|
|Editing by||Timothy Alverson|
|Studio||Dark Castle Entertainment |
Appian Way Productions
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. (US/Int'l) |
Optimum Releasing (UK)
Village Roadshow (Australia)
|Release date(s)|| |
|Running time||123 minutes|
American Sign Language
Orphan is a 2009 psychological thriller and horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Aryana Engineer, Jimmy Bennett, Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard. The film centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a mysterious nine-year old girl. Orphan was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions. The film was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009. The film received mixed critical reviews although Fuhrman's performance as Esther was acclaimed.
Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) and her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) are experiencing strains in their marriage after their third child was stillborn. The loss is particularly hard on Kate, who is also recovering from alcoholism. The couple decides to adopt a nine-year-old Russian girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), from the local orphanage. While Kate and John's deaf daughter Max (Aryana Engineer) embraces Esther almost immediately, their son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) is less welcoming.
Kate becomes suspicious that there might be problems in Esther's background when Esther expresses far more knowledge of sex than expected of a child her age. Her suspicions deepen when Esther pushes a girl who had been bullying her off the slide at a local park, breaking her leg. While she initially believes Esther's claim that it was an accident, Kate is further alarmed when Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder), the head of the orphanage, warns her and John that bad things always seem to happen when Esther is around. Esther overhears this and, as Sister Abigail is leaving in her car, Esther pushes Max into its path, forcing her to swerve off the road. Sister Abigail rushes to see if Max is hurt, but Esther kills her with a hammer, then convinces Max to help her hide the weapon in their treehouse. Kate is convinced that something is very wrong with Esther, but John does not believe her. Attempting to find out more about Esther, Kate finds the girl's hidden Bible and discovers that it came from the Saarne Institute in Estonia, which she eventually learns is a mental hospital. She e-mails a picture of Esther to them and asks for more information.
John loses his trust in Kate when she aggressively grabs Esther and yells at her after she gives Kate a bunch of white roses, all from the grave of Jessica, the stillborn child. She knows that Esther knew because at the start she says 'As long as these roses grow, she will too.' That night, Esther breaks her own arm and says that it still hurt from when Kate grabbed it. She is taken to hospital as John no longer believes Kate.
When Daniel learns about Sister Abigail's death from Max, he tells her of his plan to retrieve the hammer to prove Esther's guilt. However, Esther overhears their conversation and confronts Daniel as he searches the treehouse, setting it ablaze and locking Daniel inside in an attempt to kill him and destroy the evidence. Daniel falls to the ground trying to escape, and is knocked unconscious. Esther attempts to finish him off with a rock, but Max stops her. While Daniel is hospitalized from his fall, Esther slips into his room and smothers him with a pillow, stopping his heart, but doctors quickly revive him. Kate, realizing what happened, attacks Esther, but orderlies help John subdue her. As John takes Esther and Max home, doctors sedate Kate.
That night, Esther tries to seduce a drunken John, who finally realizes that Kate was right and threatens to send Esther back to the orphanage. Meanwhile, as Kate is coming out of sedation, she receives a call from a doctor at the Saarne Institute, who reveals that Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer. She has hypopituitarism, a condition that stunted her physical growth, and has spent most of her life as a serial killer posing as a little girl. The doctor tells Kate that Leena is extremely violent and has murdered at least seven people, and that she bears scars on her neck and wrists, which Esther always kept covered, that she received while trying to escape her strait jacket. Among her victims were a family that adopted her in Estonia, whom she killed because the father rejected her sexual advances.
Esther/Leena flies into a rage after being spurned by John, and ransacks her room. Then, after removing the makeup, false teeth, and body wrappings that enhanced her illusion as youthful "Esther", Leena stabs him with a knife and leaves him for dead. Max witnesses this, and hides. Kate, unable to get John on the phone, rushes home and finds him dead. Leena gets a gun from John's safe and shoots Kate in the arm, then goes searching for Max, finding her in the greenhouse. While Leena shoots at Max, Kate crawls onto the greenhouse roof, breaks through the glass above Leena, and lands on her, knocking her unconscious. Kate takes the gun and leaves the greenhouse with Max. At which point the camera pans back to where Esther was lying, showing that she has gone.
Kate and Esther/Leena both run into the snow covered forest as Kate desperately tries to escape from her with her daughter, Max. Esther runs after her and they end up fighting on the frozen lake with Esther trying repeatedly to stab her. Max then takes the gun Esther dropped and shoots the frozen lake which makes a hole that Esther/Leena and Kate fall in. Leena, hiding a knife behind her back, pretends to revert to her little-girl persona and begs Kate not to let her die. Kate angrily responds that she is not her mother. She kicks Leena in the face, snapping her neck and sending her back into the pond to drown. Kate and her daughter are then rescued by police.
- Vera Farmiga as Kate Coleman
- Peter Sarsgaard as John Coleman
- Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther
- CCH Pounder as Sister Abigail
- Margo Martindale as Dr. Browning
- Karel Roden as Dr. Varava
- Aryana Engineer as Maxine "Max" Coleman
- Jimmy Bennett as Daniel "Danny" Coleman
The film was shot in Canada, in the cities of Burlington, Toronto, Port Hope and Montreal.
The film opened at #4 film in the box office for its opening weekend, making $12,770,000 total, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Ugly Truth. The film has grossed a total of $78,337,373.
Orphan was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 27, 2009 in the US by Warner Home Video. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on November 27 by Optimum Releasing. The home media include alternate scenes and footage, and one alternate ending marketed on the DVD cover. The opening previews also contain a PSA describing the plight of unadopted children in the USA and encouraging domestic adoption. A DVD of the film is seen in a scene from "This Means War".
In an alternate ending, Esther is seen hurrying into her room. There, she is shown with a face covered in bloody cuts while she re-applies her makeup which makes her look like innocent Esther again. She then puts on the dress she wore for her first day of school and greets the police, who arrived after receiving Kate's frantic call before she reached the house, at the top of the stairs by curtseying and introducing herself, and then she is seen descending the stairs into the crowd of police. It is not explained whether or not she has killed Kate and Max in the alternate ending, although the body of John can be seen.
In earlier drafts of the script, Esther's attempt to kill Daniel in the hospital is successful. Esther pins the murder of Sister Abigail on a homeless man in the park by hiding a grocery bag containing the bloody hammer and personal items from Abigail's car among the man's possessions. This was filmed, and part of it is featured as a deleted scene on the DVD. Kate and John go to the orphanage not to see girls for the first time, but to bring presents to Yolanda, a 7-year-old Puerto Rican girl whom they plan on taking home the next day. There, they meet Esther (this scene plays out almost exactly as it does in the actual movie). Although she impresses them, especially John, she finds out that they've already adopted Yolanda. The next morning, Sister Judith finds Yolanda hung in a closet; it's assumed that she died in a kids game gone wrong, but implied that Esther killed her. John later suggests to Kate that they adopt Esther.earlier drafts of the script, Esther doesn't stab John to death. As he discovers the black light paintings in her room, she jumps out from beneath the pile of stuffed animals on her bed, stabs him in the eye with a pair of scissors, pushes him down the stairs (breaking his leg), and strangles him with a jump rope. he climax takes place entirely inside the house. Kate kills Esther by shooting her in the chest and (after she says, "Please don't hurt me, Mommy") between the eyes.
Earlier drafts of the script include more information about Esther's past and explain why she attempts to seduce her adoptive fathers: She was molested by her father for years, starting when she was an infant; this sexualized her at a very young age and destroyed any future chance of her having her own children. Her father later took another lover, telling Esther that, because of her condition, she could never be a real woman. She murdered them both and was ultimately sent to Saarne, a mental institution.After escaping from Saarne, she worked as a prostitute in Estonia for years, mostly catering to wealthy pedophiles. When she was arrested for this, she kept up the pretense of being a child to stay out of jail and was sent to an orphanage.
Esther sees herself as trapped inside the body of a child, and it disgusts her. She wants to "grow up" and be a wife, a mother, and a lover (what her father considered a "real woman"), and tries to find "love" where she thought she'd had it as a child, with her new father.
Critical reaction to Orphan has been mixed, with the film earning a rating of 56% (43% among the Top Critics) on Rotten Tomatoes, where the consensus is: "While it has moments of dark humor and the requisite scares, Orphan fails to build on its interesting premise and degenerates into a formulaic, sleazy horror/thriller". It also earned a 42 out of 100 on Metacritic. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3½ stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review, saying: "Orphan provides everything you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still has the power to surprise."
Todd McCarthy of Variety, was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan becomes genuine trash during its protracted second half." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote, "Actors have to eat like the rest of us, if evidently not as much, but you still have to wonder how the independent film mainstays Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard ended up wading through Orphan and, for the most part, not laughing." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, saying, "Orphan isn't scary — it's garish and plodding."
Overtly negative reviews are abundant: from "galling, distasteful trash" (Eric D. Snider) to "old-fashioned and trashy horror flick" (Emanuel Levy) and "relentlessly bad", albeit "entertaining" (Rob Vaux). According to Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews, "The problem with Orphan isn't merely that the film is idiotic--it's that it's also sleazy, formulaic and repellant." And according to Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club, "If director Jaume Collet-Serra set out to make a parody of horror-film clichés, he succeeded brilliantly."
Although the film received mixed reviews, Fuhrman's performance was acclaimed and positively received; Emanuel Levy writes Fuhrman "acquits herself with a strong performance, affecting a rather convincing Russian accent and executing sheer evil with an admirable degree of calm and earnestness." Todd McCarthy proclaims that Fuhrman (as well as fellow juvenile cast members Aryana Engineer and Jimmy Bennett) are terrific and that Fuhrman "makes Esther calmly beyond reproach even when faced with monumental evidence against her, and has the requisite great evil eye." Mick LaSalle continues in that Fuhrman "steals the show" and that she "injects nuance into this portrayal, as well as an arch spirit." Roger Ebert determined she "is not going to be convincing as a nice child for a long, long time."
The film's content, depicting a murderous adoptee, was not well received by the adoption community. The controversy caused filmmakers to change a line in one of their trailers from "It must be difficult to love an adopted child as much as your own," to "I don’t think Mommy likes me very much." Melissa Fay Greene of The Daily Beast commented:
"The movie Orphan comes directly from this unexamined place in popular culture. Esther’s shadowy past includes Eastern Europe; she appears normal and sweet, but quickly turns violent and cruel, especially toward her mother. These are clichés. This is the baggage with which we saddle abandoned, orphaned, or disabled children given a fresh start at family life."
There is a pro-adoption service message on the DVD, advising viewers to consider adoption.
Awards and nominations
|Teen Choice Awards||2009||Choice Summer Movie: Drama||Nominated|
|Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film||2010||International Feature Length Competition||Golden Raven|
- The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
- Fictional portrayals of psychopaths
- Mikey, another film about a homicidal child, in this case, an actual child
- The Bad Seed, yet another film about a murderous child, released in 1956
- Murderer (film), another film about Hypopituitarism
- Movie Orphan - Box Office Data, News, Cast Information - The Numbers
- Diane Garrett, Tatiana Siegel (2007-11-29). "Sarsgaard, Farmiga join 'Orphan'". Variety. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- Orphan (2009) - Release Dates
- Orphan at the-numbers.com
- Orphan at Rotten Tomatoes
- Orphan reviews at Metacritic.com
- Orphan at rogerebert.com
- Review: Orphan, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July 2009.
- McCarthy, Todd. Orphan Review, Variety
- "Movie Review - Orphan - New Kid in the House, Clearly Up to Something", The New York Times, 24 July 2009.
- Orphan | Movie Review, Entertainment Weekly.
- Eric Snider's review
- Emanuel Levy's review
- Rob Vaux's review
- Review by Dennis Schwarz
- Review by Keith Phipps
- "Adoption groups angry with 'Orphan' stereotypes". The San Francisco Chronicle. 2009-07-17. class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Ajournal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=Adoption+groups+angry+with+%27Orphan%27+stereotypes&rft.jtitle=The+San+Francisco+Chronicle&rft.date=2009-07-17&rft_id=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sfgate.com%2Fcgi-bin%2Farticle.cgi%3Ff%3D%2Fc%2Fa%2F2009%2F07%2F16%2FMV1N18L5U1.DTL&rfr_id=info:sid/en.wikipedia.org:Orphan_(film)">
- Fortune Care celebrates 26th year with bloodletting activity
- Greene, Melissa Fay. "The New Movie Parents Hate", The Daily Beast, 15 July 2009.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Orphan (film)|
- Official website
- Orphan at the Internet Movie Database
- Orphan at Box Office Mojo
- Orphan at Rotten Tomatoes
- Orphan trailer on YouTube
- Portman, Jamie. Audiences Scream for Isabelle Fuhrman's Orphan, Montreal Gazette, July 20, 2009
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