The first thread of the story is set in a 1920's Los Angeles hospital, where 5-year-old immigrant Alexandria (Untaru) is being treated for a broken arm she suffered falling from an orange tree. Bored and reduced to throwing oranges at the priest (Grant Swanby) for entertainment, she is intrigued when she meets despondent stuntsman Roy, who is willing to entertain her with stories of adventure and derring-do... for a price (don't worry, this is not the story of a Polanski-wannabe and his child victim, although it does get dark).
The second thread of the story is the fictional world Roy, played by "Pushing Daisies" TV actor Lee Pace, creates. It is the visually lush story of five men and their journey to kill the despicable Governor Odious (with a name like that, you have a lot of villainy to live up to). It is a story Roy soon places himself in, and the story that makes young Alexandria realize the depth of Roy's desperation.
Although the story is at times dark, it is never morbid, and the R rating is completely unfair. I watched it with my nine-year-old sister and she enjoyed it, although she probably didn't get the complexities of the script. The beauty of Roy's story is that Alexandria interprets it visually for us.
For instance, one of the heroes, the Indian, has a beautiful squaw woman taken from him by Governor Odious. So naturally, you or I would picture a Native American. But Alexandria, unfamiliar with that definition, pictures the Indian as someone from the Orient, with a turban and colorful garbs.
As has been said before many times, Catinca Untaru is quite extraordinary as Alexandria, delivering a performance so rarely given by a child of her age. Lee Pace does not reach the heights of her talent, but nevertheless impresses as Roy, and although Roy isn't always a very sympathetic character, he is completely believable.
Leo Bill, the lead from a old favorite of mine, "The Living and the Dead," plays a fictional recreation of Charles Darwin, whose best friend is the monkey Wallace, who he carries around in a handbag. He's good too, wearing a coat so outrageous it could have been sent via time capsule by Lady Gaga herself.
If I had to pick a favorite movie of all time it would probably be this. Unfortunately, despite what was no doubt a huge budget and a well-liked character actor ('Roy') to play the lead, "The Fall" hasn't achieved much international acclaim.
Which is too bad, because it's really something special. Director Tarsem creates an astonishing world devoid of special effects (ha-ha-ha! Suck on THAT, "Avatar!") while showing a touching inter generational friendship that never becomes sentimental or maudlin. And ultimately, the outcome is very positive. And I think pre-teens and teens would really like this one.