F.I.L.M. of the Week (March 5, 2010)

5 03 2010

The celebration of the Academy Awards here at Marshall and the Movies extends to all corners of the blog, including my weekly “F.I.L.M.” of the Week column.  I felt like this week’s movie should be a Best Picture nominee, so I decided on “In the Bedroom.”  In 2001, this subtle work by Todd Field (director of my personal favorite “Little Children”) lost out to “A Beautiful Mind.”  Yet it still remains one of the most talked-about Best Picture entries from that year, so I have been compelled for a long time to watch it.

“In the Bedroom” was definitely NOT what I expected.  I had heard people call it one of the most forceful and compelling dramas of the decade, so I was anticipating a typical display of strong emotion and grief a la “Revolutionary Road.”  However, other than one incredibly affecting scene, it is a very subtle work.  The movie struck me as strange when I first watched it because it doesn’t really cling to any genre or cliché.  It is an unsparingly honest portrait of a couple dealing with the murder of their son.  Nothing is held back; nothing is candy-coated.

Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson turn in deserving Academy Award-nominated performances as the aforementioned parents, whose twenty-something son (Nick Stahl) gets caught up in a messy love triangle with a single mother (Marisa Tomei) and her jealous and violent ex-husband (William Mapother, Ethan Rom from TV’s “Lost”).  They warn him to get out, but he believes he has something special with Natalie.  His defiance ultimately leads to his death at the hand of her former spouse.  Matt and Ruth (Wilkinson and Spacek) have a lot to deal with following the death: grief, sorrow, regret, longing, loneliness.  These all contribute to the crumbling of their relationship and any sort of peace of mind they might have found.

“In the Bedroom” will shock you in many ways, chiefly with its brutal realism but also with the state that it leaves you in.  I wasn’t quite sure how I felt when the credits began to roll, and I didn’t become more certain in the days and weeks that followed.  It’s not an unsatisfying feeling, and I’m not even sure that I would call it depressing.  It’s certainly unconventional, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you feel.  The movie presents the events as they are, void of sensationalism.  Perhaps you’ll feel a little numb – or not feeling anything at all.





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.