REVIEW: Another Earth

12 08 2011

Don’t let the Sundance laurel fool you – “Another Earth” is just as disposable as your average mainstream sci-fi flick nowadays.  Mike Cahill’s directorial debut, also written by he and the film’s star Brit Marling, is a disaster from its opening minutes and limps along for another hour and a half barely breathing.  To say that it wears out its welcome is quite the understatement because by the time it ends, you’ll feel like you accidentally walked into the multiplex’s sensory deprivation chamber.

Another cliched saying applicable here would be “don’t judge a movie by its trailer” since it must be for another movie, not “Another Earth.”  If you were drawn in by the intriguing premise of parallel worlds and science-fiction interplanetary travel, you are in for otherworldly disappointment.  The best thing the movie had to offer is little more than a subplot, a plot gimmick occasionally brought up in conversation but never fulfilling its enormous potential.  When the film finally cashes in on this underworked aspect in its dying breath, it feels like something we were expecting in the first reel.

The movie’s main plot, on the other hand, abandons originality and settles for a contrived tale of a woman (Marling) coping with grief.  After killing John Burroughs’ (William Mapother) wife and child in a drunken driving accident, she feels the need for catharsis by bringing herself closer to the pain that still haunts her.  Sound familiar?

I made a list of 10 movies in the past 5 years that have done it better.  But even more than that, it’s a carbon copy of last year’s “Rabbit Hole” that lost all its heart, emotion, and power in the transfer.  Nicole Kidman and company make their grief truly moving, while Brit Marling’s painfully reserved, borderline masochistic behavior combined with William Mapother’s endless moping makes for a brutal watch.  The only thing they succeed in doing is making you wish you could be transported to another earth – one where you didn’t waste your time watching this movie.  D / 





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.