Let the buyer beware ... “Return to Sender” is a scam. A punishing, trying scam attempting to sell women’s empowerment where there is none. Giving “Gone Girl” star Rosamund Pike top bill in a new thriller was false advertising; a ruse to tap into her pop culture cache.
Miranda (Pike) is a hypochondriac (for no explainable reason) workaholic nurse with strained relationships with her co-workers and dowdy father (Nick Nolte) who shows up to mostly to wreck her routine. Set up on a blind date, Miranda welcomes a strange man (Shiloh Fernandez) into her home and is raped soon after. Unable to move on with her career, she decides to court her rapist while he’s locked away. That is, until he’s released.
Its tired premise can be boiled down to little more than a rape revenge plot. This damaging narrative paints the rape victim as a villainess out of her mind. “Return to Sender” makes vengeful violence the only cure that can heal her type-A worker bee protagonist. The script brings none of the characteristic nuance of her previous thriller, and Pike struggles to keep afloat the preposterous script.
The supporting cast is equally infuriating. Her co-workers seem indifferent to Miranda’s change in temperament. And it’s not like they don’t know: the man who finds her brutalized was her real blind date and the brother of one of her co-workers. Yet, in one scene, one nurse coldly says Miranda just “needs to find a man.” The similarly detached real estate agent, unconcerned that Miranda can’t sell the house she was raped in, suggest she “plant some rose bushes” as a solution.
How is that empowering? How is this any way innovative storytelling? What gave Amy in “Gone Girl” a sense of agency is that she starts the drama out of her own volition and adapts her plans to get what she wants. For Miranda, something has to happen to her before the movie is set into motion. Her character is reactionary, the “hell hath no fury…” boogeyman in the image of a white-dressed predator-in-heels.
While movies like Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left” and Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” follow parents avenging their assaulted daughters, transferring the act of revenge into the hands of the victim is a fake illusion to add agency. It’s a scam that reaffirms tired tropes while doing and saying nothing new.
Director Fouad Mikati’s “Return to Sender” is poorly done retread. The plot twist is telegraphed far in advance, and everything in between is an unpleasant waiting game of watching a rape survivor warm up to her rapist. The look of the film is unremarkable; the dialog is tone deaf when not outright offensive. Please forward “Return to Sender” to the trash.
“Return to Sender” opens in select theaters and VOD Friday.