The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the sort of movie where the fundamentals of jurisprudence get jumbled up for cheesily dramatic effect; where tight-lipped collegiate boyfriends suddenly unleash bathetic romantic monologues; where priests and rural housewives ooze manufactured dignity; and where a brassy career women is forced to learn Important life lessons by mysterious forces beyond her control. In short, it's a lot like a David E. Kelley television drama, only padded out to two hours and projected on a 50-foot screen. Because the aforementioned career woman is portrayed by the reliable Laura Linney, The Exorcism of Emily Rose proves far more watchable than it should. Casually steely one moment and full of self-doubt the next, Linney invests her post-feminist archetype with more humanity than she deserves. Yet Linney's performance is in service of such a hokey Big Idea that it's almost painful to watch her struggle against the script. The only aspect of this absurd concoction that deserves any real praise is the demonic-possession backstory. The Exorcist is such a pop-culture touchstone that the filmmakers deserve some respect merely for avoiding most of its many clichés. As the titular victim, relative newcomer Jennifer Carpenter doesn't so much erase the memory of Linda Blair as sidestep it completely, portraying her affliction like a cross between epilepsy, schizophrenia, and an eating disorder. Too bad Carpenter contorts her body so convincingly in the service of such a fourth-rate script.