With a disquieting mixture of subtle horror, drama and Lynchian freak-outs, Bug follows the bizarre events that transpire when lonely but wild cocktail waitress Agnes (Ashley Judd) crosses paths with odd, quiet drifter Peter (Michael Shannon).
After meeting at a cocaine party in her seedy, nowhere-Oklahoma motel room, Agnes takes Peter in, his presence offering companionship and protection following her abusive ex-husband's release from prison. The warmth is short-lived, though, as Peter's comforting stoicism morphs into a manic paranoia, plunging the duo into a self-contained world of sinister bug infestations, government conspiracies and other nonsensical malfeasances. Directed by William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) and adapted from a play by noted stage actor Tracy Letts, Bug was released to critical lauds but nonetheless buzzed in and out of cineplexes faster than a fly locked onto picnic potato salad. This was unfortunate but not unexpected: Bug is a challenge, one that reaps rewards for those willing to hang on for the ride. Friedkin is largely to thank for this. He keeps the dialogue-driven film -- set largely in one room -- from becoming too stagy via continual shifts in framing and lighting that parallel the characters' mental decline. Warm, hazy tones fade to cold, claustrophobic tin-blues as Agnes and Peter sink into a paranoid oblivion as tragic as it is unsettling. (Phil Morehart) Grade: A
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