Opinion Brief

'127 Hours': James Franco's fainting problem

One of the actor's scenes in the graphic new Danny Boyle film "127 Hours" is — all too literally — knocking audiences out

James Franco's upcoming new film, 127 Hours, the true story of a man trapped on a mountain, is already generating some not-so-rave reviews. At its London premiere, a pivotal scene in which Franco's character must cut off his own arm to survive had audiences fainting and vomiting. And this isn't the first time paramedics have been called in. At festivals from Toronto to Mill Valley, Calif., the film — from Oscar-winner director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) — has left a wake of stunned, sickened, and even unconscious viewers in its path. Though Franco says "it's not a horror film where the point is to gross people out," will audience revulsion compromise the film's box-office success when it opens stateside this Friday? (Watch a trailer for 127 Hours)

The fainting episodes underline the film's power: The director and star do such a great job of making you empathize with this character that "once they get down to the nitty-gritty, you start suffering from a condition I'll call 'Franco limb syndrome,'" says Keith Staskiewicz in Entertainment Weekly. When I saw the movie, the audience stayed upright, but "there was plenty of moaning and unconscious arm-grabbing." Franco and Boyle should take such visceral reactions as a compliment.
"127 Hours: Is fainting a compliment?"

Try to keep audiences away: If anything, people will be clambering to see if they can control their own gag-reflexes, says Myrddin Gwynedd at Oh the Scandal!  "Stories of cinema-goers hurling and fainting in the aisles while watching so-called gruesome flicks are the stuff of silver screen legend. Exorcist, anyone?"
"Paramedics called to screening of Danny Boyle's 127 Hours"

Maybe, but the studio will have to position the film carefully: These reactions have "presented a delicate marketing challenge for Fox Searchlight, which co-financed and is distributing the $20-million movie," says John Horn in the Los Angeles Times. Horror films like The Exorcist or Alien are engineered to revolt people, but spontaneous vomit is not generally the goal with "a highbrow drama" that's seeking Oscars. "I would prefer that people not pass out — it's not a plus," says Fox Searchlight's co-president, Stephen Gilula, as quoted in the piece. "We don't see a particular publicity value in it."
"Some viewers need a hand after the forearm amputation in 127 Hours"

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