We know from The Majestic that Jim Carrey can carry a serious part; here in a dark place, The Number 23 brings him and us into a red book that may parallel the life of Carrey's Walter Sparrow.
The cascade into the book's life begins as Walter observes his wife Agatha played with a hidden agenda by Virginia Madsen reading a paperback with the title "The Number 23". The life of Walter Sparrow then begins to mix with Fingerling - the book's main character. Early on he finds the grave of Laura Tollis (Rhona Mitra) as he is lead by Alfie the dog to a grave yard. Quickly he informs us that he is an Aquarius born on February 3rd. The story is a detective story, but who wrote the book becomes Walter's mission and compulsion.
Initially we can't help but think of Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell's journey to determine who is witting his life and predicting his death, but this is much darker. It could be an episode of "The Twilight Zone" but a little more sinical. While everything in Walter's mind appears to lead to the number 23, through multiplication, addition or division we begin to wonder what is real and what is not. There is suicide and blood and Virginia Madsen his loyal wife becomes Fabrizia - a dark hair sensual beauty who has the power to seduce Fingerling or is she just pulling on Walter? Lynn Collins plays the suicide Blond and young Fingerling's mother in her death scene. While shadows dance on Sparrow's bedroom ceiling he carries us back to rough sex and his father's untimely death.
The book runs from December 23 through February 23 and it is filled with death dark shadows rather than ranges of color but red continues to appear throughout. Walter the dog catcher finds his alter-ego in a red letter King Edward Hotel but he cannot finish the book because chapter 23 is missing. Also missing is the body of a young woman which leads to an excavation scene late at night.
As a tense musical score carries us into room 23 where we learn the secret of The Number 23, the dark, long and twisted journey doesn't bring a sufficient satisfaction to justify the tension and terror that Walter Sparrow lives through. The atmosphere and quest exist but the solution and climax are just not enough to make it worthwhile.
Don't blame the performers, everything is there, it just doesn't add up.