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Wade Whitehouse is a sheriff of a small New Hampshire town who achieved nothing in life in the opinion of his ex-wife Lillian and daughter Jill and is a heavy drinker. His girlfriend Margie accepts him the way he is. On the first day of the hunting season, Wade's friend Jack takes a wealthy businessman to hunt - and only Jack returns alive. Wade decides to play detective and starts investigating the case despite the fact Jack insists it was an accidental self-inflicted shot. Written by
"Affliction" doesn't have an immediate plot. It's mostly a delve into a man's (Nick Nolte) psyche, a divorced alcoholic man who was abused as a child by his drunken father (James Coburn). He tries to cope, he tries to make something of himself by attempting to solve a hunting accident which he thinks is really a murder. He claims that after this, everyone will remember him as a hero.
Luckily the audience isn't made to believe Nolte's cause, to us he looks just as mad as he does to the characters around them. This is well done, because it could've been presented as some big twist at the end.
Anyway, the "mystery" element to the film isn't that important. It's mostly about how hard - and almost impossible - it is to prevent an emotionally abused man to make the same mistakes his father made. This idea is presented well, but by the end it just feels so thick and depressing that it's hard to take anything from the film, because you don't want to remember it.
Acting-wise the movie is quite good. Nolte delivers what I think is his best performance here, with a quiet desperation wonderfully put out by his eyes, voice, face, and so on. James Coburn does his usual well, but I have to question just why he won an Oscar for this. Don't get me wrong, he was a terrific actor and his performance in this is great, but he's not in many scenes, and the scenes he is in are mostly just a variation of the same thing: Coburn drunkenly and violently mumbles at his sons and eventually starts to yell and thrash. This is all well and good, but his scenes never go beyond that, except for (maybe) at the end when he spews his own sort of twisted philosophy to Nolte.
Other great performances come from Sissy Spacek as Nolte's increasingly uneasy girlfriend. Also Willem Dafoe as Nolte's brother who is so concerned with being quiet and not problematic that he cant prevent the build-up of violence and abuse in his family. I'd say that this performance is more Oscar worthy than Coburn's.
This is a good movie with a great message, but it doesn't put enough on the table, 7/10.
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