Posted in Film

The Sandra Bullock Files #31: Murder by Numbers (2002)

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The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.

Before she won an Academy Award for The Blind Side, Sandra rarely won or was nominated for any significant awards, and few critics ever gave her kudos for her dramatic range. But one thing that’s rarely written about her is the chances she takes on different genres. In 1996 she followed a legal thriller with an historical drama. In 1998 she followed a tearjerker drama with a fantasy comedy. In 2000 she followed a rehab drama with a slapstick comedy, and if Miss Congeniality taught us anything, it’s that we love Sandra when she’s silly and fun.

So naturally it would have made sense for Sandra to follow up Miss Congeniality with another comedy, right? No, that would have been too easy. Sandra had three films released in 2002, all fairly mediocre in their own specific ways, but all completely different in tone and genre, and, if nothing else, at least that element should be recognized for her versatility. George Lopez, which Sandra produced, was also launched that year, so 2002 has to be considered one of Sandra’s busiest years in the industry, so much so that after she wrapped filming Two Weeks Notice, she took a two-and-a-half year break from acting.

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Murder by Numbers, which was screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was her first film released in 2002, and it’s noteworthy for a few reasons. One, she plays a character named Cassie with a profession similar to Gracie’s in Miss Congeniality, except this time she plays the role totally straight. Second, while in the majority of her movies Sandra is the star, in this she is one of three — Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling take over half the story, as two high school students committing grisly murders, seducing girls, and manipulating Cassie for their own personal pleasure. And third, and most noteworthy of all, the scenes in Murder by Numbers that truly sparkle with energy and vitality are the ones not with Sandra’s character, but with Pitt and Gosling.

Cassie is fairly basic and, can it be said, by the numbers? Her backstory and development feel very TV-movie-of-the-week, in that her arc is fairly obvious from the start. Pitt and Gosling on the other hand are magnetic in their quiet, eerie scenes, showcasing the kind of talent we’d be exposed to in the exciting years to come. Pitt would go on to deliver impressive performances in The Dreamers, Funny Games, and Boardwalk Empire, while Gosling would excel in films like Half Nelson, Drive, Blue Valentine, and The Place Beyond the Pines. If there’s anything memorable about Murder by Numbers, it’s the performances by Pitt and Gosling. Kudos have to be given to Sandra for taking on a movie that doesn’t entirely focus on her, and instead gives two up-and-coming actors a shot.

Best Scene: The erotically charged encounter between Sandra and Gosling in front of her car.

Best Line: “The profile doesn’t fit the profile!”

Fun Facts

The moment near the end of the movie, where Gosling licks Sandra’s face, was not scripted. After a few takes, Gosling asked Sandra if it would be okay if he added it in to prove his character’s sick nature.

The title refers to the song, “Murder by Numbers,” written by Sting and Andy Summers and performed by The Police.

Todd Field, Oscar-nominated actor and director, played a murder suspect, but his scenes were deleted.

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