Directed by: Julian Schnabel
Written by: Diana Ossana and Christopher Hampton
Produced by: James Schamus, Kathleen Kennedy, and Jon Kilik
Cinematography by: Seamus McGarvey
Film Editing by: Matt Chesse and Dylan Tichenor
Musical Score by: Gustavo Santaolalla
Saoirse Ronan as Calliope/Cal Stephanides (1974/75)
Saadet Aksoy as Desdemona Stephanides (1922)
Mehmet Günsür as Eleutherios Stephanides (1922)
Ralph Fiennes as Milton Stephanides (1974)
Türkan Soray as Desdemona Stephanides (1974)
Guy Pearce as Cal Stephanides (2001)
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Tesse Stephanides (1974)
Colin Firth as Mike
Kate Ashfield as Julie
Tagline: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, and then again, as a teenage boys"
Synopsis: 2001: Cal Stephanides appears to be your everyday man. He takes the train everyday to his job at foreign services, and never hesitates to take a peek at the attractive women he spots on his way to work. But, in reality, the fact is Cal hasn't had his male persona for all of his life. As Cal sits in the train staring at a nearby attractive Asian woman, his memories of his past are gathered up in his mind. Coming home from work, Cal decides he wants to share the story of how his family came to be, and how his life had gotten to where it was. He begins writing his novel, about his life and where it has taken him, and about his family's infamous past.
1922: In a small town in Anatolian, lived Cal's grandparents, Eleutherios Stephanides, otherwise known as "Lefty", and his sister Desdemona Stephanides. There parents were killed in the surrounding war with the Turks, and the two siblings were forced to live together by themselves. As the years had went by the love that the two siblings had for each other grew.The two became pulled together by the sharing of emotions that came from isolation, and sympathy. The sibling's love for each other grew to become more than just a brotherly or sisterly love. It became compassion. The brother, Eleutherios, and the sister, Desdemona, fell in love with each other, and they couldn't imagine being with anyone else. The town, however, wasn't fond of this type of love. That is why they fled to America, where they were able to get married.
Late 1920s: Desdemona became pregnant with Eleutherios' child, and both were excited about having their first child. However, the great depression became a big obstacle for the couple to overcome, and if that wasn't bad enough Desdemona is now worried about the diseases that her child may get because of her and her husband's incest relationship. She's also worried about Eleutherios, who seems to be getting involved with some of the local gangs. But Desdemona's spirit is high. She wants to establish themselves as Americans in their new home, and give their child great opportunities in life. Desdemona gives birth to Milton, and remarkably finds out that he has no diseases or birth defects.
1974: Milton had married his cousin, Tesse, and together they had two children, one of which was Calliope. In 1974, Calliope was 14, and she seemed like any other ordinary 14 year old girl. She had a crush on a junior high school boy, and hanged out with some of her girly friends. But curiosity starts to surface in her mind. The crush on the school boy was silenced by a crush on a school girl. She finds herself asking questions about her sexuality. She soon finds the answer to all of her questions when she is accidently hit by a car, and is rushed to the hospital. Once awakened from being unconscious she overhears the doctors say they want to operate on her male parts to make her more female. The doctors continues to confirm that Calliope is technically a male. Calliope, confused and enraged, runs away from her (now a "his") home, and hitchhikes to San Francisco.
Late 1974/1975: Calliope, now using the name Cal, works for a burlesque show, where he is the main attraction as the "freak" of the show. Meanwhile, Milton receives a phone call from a mysterious man proclaiming he knows where Calliope is, and will give him her whereabouts if he gives him $25,000. Milton agrees to pay the money and goes to the agreed upon location, where he finds out that the mysterious man is actually Mike, who is Tesse's ex-fiance.Mike was once in love with Tesse, but was always looked down upon by Tesse when compared to Milton's financial success.Mike attempts to blackmail Milton, but Milton threatens to contact the police. The quarrel ends in a car chase, and a fateful car accident that leaves Milton dead, and Mike arrested.
The Burlesque show that Cal was working at is raided by police, and Cal is forced to go back home, where he hears of the sad news of his father's death. Later, Desdemona sees Cal as a male for the first time and confesses to him that she had married her brother, and that Milton was the offspring.
2001: Cal has just finished his novel. Before sending it to any publishers he shares the story with Julie, a woman he has been dating. Julie's reacts by asking if she is only the "next stop" in his sexual discovery of himself. Cal answers No, and happily tells her he hopes she will be his "last stop". The two locks lips, and expresses their love sexually.
What the Press would say:After viewing this movie, one will walk out of the theater with a variety of emotions, but the emotion that is almost guaranteed is shock. Shock that a movie with Middlesex's subject matter could be a touching, engaging, and a heart-filled epic masterpiece. The same shock that many probably felt after viewing Brockback Mountain, and seeing their "just some gay cowboy movie" assumptions were demolished by the work of art. Middlesex is the story of Cal, a hermaphrodite who was raised as a girl (Calliope) until she finds out that she is actually a he. The story is told switching between timelines, all narrated by the present day Cal, who is a matured full grown man (played by Guy Pierce), and tells the story of Cal's grandparent (whose main segments are spoken in Turkish language), who were brother and sister, and Cal's father Milton. What makes Middlesex so amazing is how it is able to take these "abnormal" characters and make them very recognizable to the audience.
Julian Schnabel is successfully able to capture many of the elements that made Jeffrey Eugenides novel successful, and is also able to create a unique atmosphere to go with the story's powerful themes. The movie as a whole is nothing short of an epic; Showcasing the obstacle of surviving while there are constant battles from the Turkish war, and showcasing the beginning chaos of the Michigan race riots. Directing material that could easily be labeled as controversial, Schnabel is able to find much grace in what could be labeled as a hybrid genre of a love and "finding oneself" story. The movie also isn't too serious or uptight. Just like in the novel, Schnabel includes much humor in the movie, and the humor never takes away from the story's credibility or it's theme of identification.
The technical aspects of the movie are what especially makes the movie wonderful to watch. The cinematography makes the story feel natural, and never forced or manipulative. The film editing is smart, and goes elegantly with the cinematography, making scenes that could of caused an uproar (like the burlesque scenes with Saoirse Ronan) appropriate. The musical score of the film is just amazing. Gustavo Santaolalla was able to make a sound more light than his usual flare, but still powerful and dramatic. The score will get you into the story, and help make you feel the emotions the characters may be going through. I also feel the make up department is worth mentioning, especially seeing what they did to Saoirse Ronan. She's a convincing girl, and even more convincing boy.
Some of the featured characters in the film happened to be Turkish actors, and the average person probably never heard of most of them. That still doesn't take away from their incredible performances, and after seeing this film I guarantee Saadet Aksoy will be a more common name after she gets her Oscar. She plays the young version of Desdemona who falls in love with her brother Eleutherios and her performance is simply mesmerizing. The sexual tension each time they accidentally touch, the desperate attempts by Desdemona to keep away the lingering sexual desires she has for her brother, the gasp of relief when their lips finally meet. What makes the performance so devilishly good is the fact that you'll be saying in your head "no don't kiss him, he's your brother" but at the same time saying "It's about time you expressed your love for him" (Like one would say in a romantic movie). It's truly a ground-breaking performance, and a crime if it goes unnoticed.
Even though Saadet Aksoy is the clear showstealer, it would be a crime to do a review without mentioning Saoirse Ronan's performance as Calliope. She does one step better than Cate Blanchett did in "I'm Not There" and plays both a girl and a boy. As a girl, she questions her sexuality and seeing her confusion on screen is utterly priceless. However, the part that really showcases her talent is the parts were she plays Cal (Her male parts...no pun intended). The scene of her rushing out of the hospital is traumatizing to any parent, and the scenes of her working at the burlesque show must of been hard for the young actress to pull off. But, amazingly, she was able to pull it off and surpass all expectations. Ralph Finneas also has quite a good role as the father of Cal. It's nice to see him in a good guy role for a change, and he proves that he can give a great good guy performance just as good as he can give to his infamous villain roles. There's also an amazing cameo performance from veteran Turkish actress Türkan Soray, as the older Desdemona. Her performance is short, but she is still very effective and dramatic.
Middlesex surpasses all expectations any average moviegoer or critic may have had. Julian Schnabel has flawlessly crafted an engaging epic masterpiece, that has the right to be called a modern classic.
Best Director- Julian Schnabel
Best Actress- Saadet Aksoy
Best Supporting Actress- Saoirse Ronan
Best Supporting Actress- Türkan Soray
Best Supporting Actor- Ralph Fiennes
Best Supporting Actor- Mehmet Günsür
Best Adapted Screenplay- Diana Ossana and Christopher Hampton
Best Film Editing
Best Art Direction
Best Original Score
Best Original Song ("Family Love" by Glen Hansard, and Markéta Irglová)