An ordinary woman uncovers a plot against her -- but is it real, or all in her head? The story of the classic George Cukor film Gaslight (as well as the play that inspired it) has been adapted again and again, with varying degrees of originality, from Rosemary's Baby to Unsane. The premise plays on our cultural understanding of the micro- to macro-aggressive ways in which women have been historically manipulated by men.
Rob W. King's Distorted, a thriller crisscrossing domestic drama with CIA psyops, ventures into the paranoid woman trope with a story about Lauren (Christina Ricci), who copes with her bipolar disorder with meds until she starts seeing apparently imaginary people coming for her. To make her feel safe, her husband Russell (Brendan Fletcher) moves her into a "smart" apartment, surrounded by security. But she immediately feels something is off: Lauren sees words flashing across her TV screen.
King illustrates Lauren's confusion with the technique of strobed montages, the flashing of random disturbing images before our eyes. There's no cohesive nature to them or a logic behind their existence. One would hope that the images would have a specific emotional resonance for Lauren, helping us piece together her story.
It's fascinating to me that John Cusack signed on to play a Deep State-obsessed hacker, Vernon Sarsfield, who gets little screen time. Vernon is constantly aware of Lauren's whereabouts and worries, enough to show up at the same coffee shop where she is and ping her all the CIA research on mind control she might ever need. If there's one thing I can say for this movie, it's that the cast is delivering, even if the story they're in cannot.