Karla – Review

Directed by Joel Bender
Starring Laura Prepon, Misha Collins
101 minutes
Opens January 20, 2006

** stars out of five

Unless you have lived under a rock or outside of Canada for the past decade you probably know most of the gory intimate details of the Paul Bernardo and Karla Homalka (now Teale) case. This story, about the two brutal rapes and murders of three victims in the early 1990s including Karla’s own sister Tammy, has garnered much attention in the press because this seemingly clean cut Ken and Barbie couple are so unlike what we would have pictured them to be.

The making of this film has been cause for concern, with the premier of Ontario urging the public not to see it even though he has not screened it himself. It was also withdrawn from Montreal’s World Film Festival as a result of direct pressure from the major corporate sponsor, Air Canada. If that wasn’t enough, the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French threaten to block the release of the film if it shows any nudity or if the depictions of the gruesome events could be construed as child pornography. Too much ado about a mediocre film.

The story is told through flashbacks from Karla’s point of view during the talks she had with her psychiatrist before being denied parole in 2002. The screenplay is choppy and has a ‘real made for TV feel’ with much of the dialogue being based on the actual transcripts from the trial. There really isn’t much of a script. The acting is sub par with Misha Collins playing Bernado as a one-dimensional character. Laura Prepon (the girl from That ‘70s Show) may have Karla’s hair dos down pat, but she lacks the depth at this point in her career to portray the subtle nuances we find so fascinating about Karla.

Speaking to producer Michael Sellers and director Joel Bender at a recent press junket in Toronto, they insist that the film is not about titillation or exploitation and they are mostly correct about the facts. Most of the gruesome details are played off camera. They would like us to believe that this is a lesson about “predator awareness” and spousal abuse, but the film does not make a compelling case for either issue. When Karla is pressed by the Kristen French character (name change to Kaitlyn Ross) as to why she stays with Paul, she answers, “You just don’t understand”. A mantra she repeats several times throughout the film.

We are given no insight about the main characters’ motivations for their actions. If you take away the fact that we are so thoroughly bombarded by the details of this notorious Canadian case and view it as just a movie, as the rest of the world will, there is nothing about it to recommend on any level. This movie, for me, would have been long forgotten by this time. Save your time and money.