Archive for category Drama

“Rabbit Hole”

A stunning portrayal of grief, forgiveness and healing. Director John Cameron Mitchell gets it so right, this film deserved to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Its lack of a nomination is proof only that there are no “small films,” only “small minds” when it comes to evaluating the criteria of what makes a film “Best Picture-worthy.” From the very beginning, the film palpably creates the overwhelming feeling of emptiness not just in the hearts of the two main characters (Nicole Kidman’s “Becca,” and Aaron Eckhart’s “Howie,”) following the tragic death of their four-year old son,  but in the physicality of their home. The dialogue rings so authentically true that it’s heartbreaking, especially when it’s delivered by pros like Dianne Wiest. It’s a joy to see both Eckhart and Kidman in an intimate drama such as this one. Eckhart goes through the motions of each day but with a heart so heavily despondent that he seems to personify the concept of a heavy heart physically. Kidman infuses Becca with such a restless, twitchy, energy, that every moment spent with Becca feels seat-squirmingly like tip-toeing across a field of land mines. The score? It’s the first time I’ve ever considered what a sad lullabye might sound like. The  story is told gently, delicately, slowly so that by the time a key figure is revealed, it has the impact of a terrible car crash. A tough, tough movie for people to watch who have been through a similar tragedy, but so authentically depicted that it might actually be cathartic for some. “Rabbit Hole” is a film not to be missed.

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The King’s Speech

The best picture of the year. And the best actor of the year. Colin Firth gives a heartbreakingly nuanced performance as King George VI, who ascended to the throne when his brother King Edward,  abdicated to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. You cannot help but feel his emotional pain every time he tries to speak. I found Firth’s skillful performance to be exceptionally moving. The camerawork in the film is also stunning, accentuating the essential loneliness that defined King George, the result of his lifelong stammer. A man, “a naval officer” who recoiled from any spotlight is thrust onto the world stage during an extraordinary period in history. The always exceptional Geoffrey “Shine” Rush is wonderful in an understated performance as Lionel Logue, the unconventional speech therapist who helps King George find his voice. Thankfully, Helena Bonham Carter is back in the type of period piece in which she excels after spending the last decade or more of her career essentially in wickedly creative costumes in the oddball films of her husband, the brilliant and eccentric Director Tim Burton. In this film, as Queen Elizabeth, Bonham Carter, in an underwritten role, brings a natural warmth to the film, always demonstrating her unconditional love for her husband and her unwavering confidence in him. The King’s Speech is not slowly paced, but because it is thoughtfully telling a worthy story, it is not for those seeking an amusement park ride.

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The Fighter

Good boxing movie, great family drama. A Greek tragedy. Mark Wahlberg plays real-life folk hero “Irish” Micky Ward as the hometown hero being pimped out to the boxing world by his manager mother and his crack-addled trainer brother and former local boxing legend, Dickie Eklund. Like many of the Boston-area films directed or produced by Walberg or Ben Affleck, it looks, feels and smells authentically like the urban cities and forgotten suburban-urban towns that one thinks of as the rough-and-tumble turfs of “Boston.” Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”), who plays the mother of both Micky and Dickie, and Amy Adams (“Julie and Julia”), playing Micky’s girlfriend give such authentic and powerful performances that it’s hard to believe they are not the people whose characters they inhabit. Their performances particularly moved me. And while Christian Bale’s performance as Dickie is unforgettable as well, his oddly layered British-Boston accent calls too much attention to itself as did all the squirrelly mannerisms. I wish I could say that Wahlberg’s performance rose to the same level as his co-stars but it doesn’t. Wahlberg has quietly and shrewdly been making a name for himself as an Executive Producer (The HBO series “Entourage” for one) and perhaps in this film he just “stayed on the ropes” and let his co-stars shine, but I can never forget that I’m watching Mark Wahlberg. I’d love to see him take on an unheroic role where he disappears into the character and I never for a second think I’m watching Mark Wahlberg. I think he has it in him, but no Director has been able to pull a transformative performance out of him yet. Still, The Fighter is one of the best films of the year.

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127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle sure knows how to move a film along…and with great style. In the hands of most other Directors, this film could have been a giant snoozefest (like Social Network). After all, most of the film takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a canyon crevice in a Utah desert. Granted, the original story by trapped climber Aron Ralston, which was superbly written, clearly paints a picture of breathtaking natural beauty which Boyle magnetically captured on film. But it could have been achingly dull. Instead, Boyle’s visual style with fast multiple cuts and image layering, brings a raw energy to the film which is tonally apropo. And the music is equally moving, hitting all the right notes from the splendor and majesty of nature’s beauty to the fun and funky lifestyle of independent, adrenaline-fueled spirits like Ralston. James Franco is simply a joy to watch in the role. Even though I know how the story ended (just like we all know how the Facebook-based Social Network story ended), I found myself rooting for Franco’s character from the very beginning. The amputation scene, starting with the cracks of the two bones in his arm which I actually found worse than the amputation itself, is what you’d expect, but I found myself so wrapped up in his struggle, that I wanted to do the job for him. That’s how good Franco is in 127 Hours.

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Social Network

I have one word for this film. Titanic. As in overblown, undeserving self-adulation among the entertainment and social media glitterati. The film isn’t really being recognized; the social media phenomenon is. Yes, I am also one of the few people on planet earth who also thought that James Cameron’s “Titanic” was simply a mediocre movie (Poseidon Adventure on steroids) whose hero was actually the scale of the picture and not the still-pubescent Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his least memorable roles and the amazing Kate Winslet reduced to mere ornamentation in this juggernaut of unrestrained ego. All in all, I found “Social Network” disappointing. The actors all outshone the story which I simply found…dull. The only thing that remotely moved me was the performance of Andrew Garfield who conveyed what little heart the film had. Someone has to say it. The emperor has no clothes on.

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