REVIEW: Jane Got a Gun

6 05 2016

Jane Got A GunReally, truly and sincerely – I cannot think of a recent movie that I watched with more dispassion or disinterest than “Jane Got a Gun.”

The film, whose three-year journey to the audiences involved a revolving door of exiting talent along with the dramatic bankruptcy of its distributor, endured more than most. Yet in spite of (or, more likely, because of) this off-screen fracas, nothing remotely cinematic emerged. It feels like watching the motions of a western with no actual genre feeling. The wheels of time move, so the machinations of plot are there, but nothing really seems to happen. It’s mobile paralysis, if you will.

I generally tend to abide by Roger Ebert’s dogma when critiquing movies that suggests (as paraphrased by Wesley Morris) judging a movie against the best version of itself. All I can say is that the world is a worse place for not having the version of “Jane Got a Gun” directed by Lynne Ramsay, the wunderkind who summoned one of Tilda Swinton’s greatest performances in “We Need To Talk About Kevin.” Far more intriguing than watching any scene in the film directed by Gavin O’Connor (director of insipid MMA drama “Warrior”) was imagining how Ramsay might have approached the same situation.

I wondered how she might have gotten a more multifacted portrayal of the titular protagonist out of Portman. (Fun fact: this would have been the first feature-length film for Natalie Portman under a female director. So, yeah, go look up #HireTheseWomen.) I pondered how her impressionistic style could have livened up what otherwise feels like direct-to-DVD western fare. Surely whatever kind of uncommercial art film Ramsay was concocting could have made more money than this hastily assembled version of “Jane Got a Gun.” C-1halfstars





F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 21, 2009)

21 08 2009

The new feature that I hyped up (OK, I briefly mentioned in a post that no one read) is here!  The F.I.L.M. of the week will be unveiled every Friday; F.I.L.M. is an acronym for “First-Class Independent, Little-Known Movie.”  But the movies will not be limited to independent films, although I would like to highlight them.  The word just works better in forming a strategic acronym.

The whole point of this weekly feature is to suggest a movie that you might not have seen, considered, or even heard about (barring you are a major film buff like myself).  So if you are browsing Netflix or walking around Blockbuster, rather than picking up “17 Again” or, God forbid, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” you will be armed with the knowledge of at least one movie that is a safe bet for excellent entertainment.

It is my distinct pleasure to award the distinction of the first “F.I.L.M. of the Week” to the exquisite “Little Children.”  The movie is just on the outside of my top 10, although given more viewings, it just might move into the elite ranks.   It is one of very few movies that I can say are practically flawless.  Every performance is great.  Every character is well-developed.  Every minute of it is absolutely spellbinding. Unfortunately, audiences didn’t pick up on its brilliance; it grossed about $5 million at the box office, most of which was from Oscar season. The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Supporting Actor (Jackie Earle Haley), and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Golden Globes nominated it for Best Picture.

The movie is based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, but he decided to take the movie in a distinctly different direction than the book rather than just make a carbon copy.  The screenplay is about as good as it gets.  It complexly weaves together the tales of Sarah (Kate Winslet), the resistant mother stuck among droves of Stepford wives, Brad (Patrick Wilson), the stay-at-home-dad emasculated by his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and her success, Larry (Noah Emmerich), a disgraced police officer out for vengeance, and Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley), a pedophile who moves in with his loving mother.  They all impact each other in ways they cannot even fathom, and the film’s overlying messages become clear through their encounters.

Everyone is magnificent in the movie, but I do have to single out a few names.  Director Todd Field gives the film narrative poise unlike any movie of the decade, and his presence and guiding hand is clearly felt throughout the movie.  He skillfully handles the very tough material that the movie tackles, treating it with the respect and dignity that they deserve.  Despite its heavy themes, Field also allows it to function as a very dark comedy as well.  This should have been Kate Winslet’s Oscar-winning performance.  It is nuanced, emotional, and absolutely gripping.  She immediately draws you in and never lets go.  Jackie Earle Haley does the unthinkable by turning a feared sexual predator into someone we can ultimately feel compassion for and empathize.  He moves you almost to the verge of tears, especially in scenes with his gentle and loving mother (Phyllis Sommerville).  Here, we see him as emotionally raw and not a pedophile, but as an insecure human being just like the rest of us.

But it’s time for me to stop writing and let the movie speak for itself.  I will say that the movie might be disturbing for some easily squeamish, mainly because of its brutally honest and often graphic portrayal of things that exist in our society.  Nevertheless, for a movie that will keep you thinking for days, drop everything and watch “Little Children.”  If you do see it, write your thoughts in a comment, or if you have seen it, still express yourself in a comment.

Until the next reel,
Marshall

P.S. – Watch the trailer.  It’s one of the rare ones that doesn’t give away anything about the plot. And it also sets you up for the ride that “Little Children” offers.