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My criteria for how good a movie is is not the conventional formula of "Did
I like it?, but "Do I respect it?". I don't think it's possible to like
Affliction in this regard, but I can tell you I sure as hell respected it.
One scene in particular made the film for me: the bloody attempt at dentistry Nick Nolte performs upon himself. There was more power in his painfilled eyes, bleeding mouth, and watering eyes than in almost any scene that I've ever seen on film. I'll be rooting for to win on Oscar night, and this is coming from a HUGE Ed Norton fan.
I will admit, however, that the voice-over narration by Willem Dafoe was downright bad. I love Dafoe; his character in Platoon is one of the most tragic I've ever experienced. But his character seemed to unnecessarily be included in the film as an observer of the downfall of his brother and nothing more. Such an observer was not needed, and his role did not lend anything more to the film.
Nevertheless, a triumph on almost every level. Here's hoping this sort of character-driven story becomes more of the norm in the movie industry in the future.
First of all I watched the film first and was captivated by it. I then
I needed to read the book. The book had some interesting plots that the
movie did not have. The first scene that comes to mind is a scene where
Wade shows up at Heady Rogers apartment and gets her to sleep with him
after he gets her to feel bad for him. I like the detail that Banks
goes into in this particular plot in the book. He also tells Wade's
Story of Margie Fog much different. She is more of a product of not
having lots of women in a small northern town. Margie is more of a town
bike in the book and one of those women that are recycled by the men
that live there.
The second scene is one of Jimmy pushing wade out of the plow into a snowbank. Wade is much darker in the book and really does not feel love for Margie at all.
Before I make any comments about this excellent film, I really should comment on some of the negative reviews other people have given it. In my view, it is a sad comment on the taste and intelligence of the movie-going public that this near masterpiece should have been greeted as boring, pointless, or even, in one especially gross instance, as , of all things, a "turd".In my view, there are both aesthetic and sociological reasons for this lack of comprehension. First of all,the film is a character study..an analysis of two men, Wade Whitehouse and his father, and how they ruined each others lives. It is not a shot em up thriller. In addition, its not "Pulp Fiction'..there are no spectacular camera flourishes, no dazzling contrivances. In addition, there is not a single special effect in sight. Instead, we get a restrained, compassionate study of some pretty sad human lives.That it also happens to be emotionally violent, tense, and, in places suspenseful, is a tribute to the acting and to the directing. Nick Nolte, James Coburn, Spacek, and Defoe are uniformly excellent, as are all the smaller performances. In addition, for all the lack of outward directorial showiness, Paul Schrader not only reminds that he is as close to Bresson as any American director is likely to get, he also reminds that he is , with John Sayles, the only one capable of sympathetic portraits of the working class. Of course, chastity, compassion,and restraint are NOT what a lot of movie-goers are looking for. Sadly, even fewer are looking for compassionate portraits of the working class. Despite the false image of National prosperity created by politicians of both parties and by big business, many Americans-especially blue collar Americans- live lives of "quiet desperation ."Sadly, Many Americans would rather retreat into the fantasy world of the Matrix than be reminded of the suffering of their brothers and sisters. In a weird way, the presence on the movies soundtrack of long forgotten country songs by Bonnie Guitar and Skeeter Davis underscored this. For all its faults, the best classic country music did portray the sufferings of the working class with wit, and tenderness... Shania Twain and Garth Brooks would never think of doing so, and sell Millions, while the Lacy J. Daltons and Merle Haggards are forgotten. Oddly, Affliction reminded me of a classic country song, filtered , in this case through the oddly compassionate Calvinist sensibility of Paul Schrader. Then again, Sissy Spacek did play a fairly well known country singer once!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a cast headed by James Coburn, Nick Nolte, Willem Dafoe & Sissy
Spacek, you might expect a tour-de-force in screen drama. Well; you'll
This item was pulled from the bran-tub. Suspiciously, it came in one of those very thin plastic cases which usually betoken a crap movie, but for £1 it seemed worth a try. The case didn't deceive.
Set in small town New Hampshire, USA, during the winter, we are treated to a dismal and rather confusing drama. Once more, the lighting crew appear to have gone on strike and even the interiors of buildings are places of unremitting gloom. The script may be 'realistic' but it is largely boring. Most of the dialogue is spoken in a hushed and hurried way that is frequently unintelligible. You strain to hear a clue that was never there, or a snippet of conversation that wasn't worth your attention.
Nick Nolte's character has family problems. Yes; he's a dead-beat dad. Aren't they all? His own father (played by Coburn) was himself a violent man and - well; the abused eventually turns abuser.
Partway through, a homicide bi-line appears in the form of a suspicious shooting. Is it an accident, or is it murder? It begins to look as though the movie will finally develop into something. 'A Perfect Plan' comes to mind, or even 'Fargo'. But not so. This issue just limps confusedly along with the dead-beat dad plot to no particular outcome whatsoever. It's also rather curious how many movies depict small-town America as cultural black-holes riven by disillusion, drink, and unhappiness. Can't humans ever be comfortable together? Just occasionally there are moments - all too brief - of tension, drama and tenderness, but for the very most part it's just a 109 minute dirge.
The movie begins with a long-winded and convoluted intro narrated by Willem Dafoe (who plays Nolte's little brother) and ends in a similar way, but this time with a reproval of universal male domestic-violence that is as heavy-handed as it is plain wrong. It's a piece that might have been written by the most embittered, self-righteous feminist. And it absolutely stinks.
The politically-correct with no discernment will love this crap. Those with a more balanced outlook will see it for what it is.
Spoon-fed entertainment for the art house/Academy voters. An unengaging "character study" that is nothing but an excuse for horribly broad acting; a "cycle of abuse" theme that's laughable in its naked obviousness; a conspiracy storyline that is as pointless as it is uninteresting; sloppy, logy direction, utterly lacking in artistry or intelligence. Overall, an exercise in bloated enervation. If you want to see a real crackerjack film by Paul Schrader, do yourself a favor and rent "Blue Collar."
Wow, I'm usually with the mainstream when it comes to cheering independent film, especially when it defies Hollywood's so-called "Wisdom," But this movie fails in too many ways too earn such praise. It is no match for "The Sweet Hereafter" or "Fargo." With clunky writing and dialog, that often slaps one with it's ineptitude, the plot spins it's wheels, obviously caught in deep snow. The supporting characters are comedic in the worst way, and nothing Nolte or Coburn can do will dig them out of the drift. All the beauty of Sarossy's pictures is a moot point if you are looking around the theater wondering if anyone else smells the stink.
This movie is one of the worst I've ever seen. It ranks down with Hotel New
Hampshire and Hot Spot as one of the few I've awarded a score of one on a
scale of one to ten.
There were no good guys in the movie. Nor was there a plot. Nick Nolte simply ran around doing inane things which had no point, driving away both his daughter and his girlfriend in the end.
Making movies about such drivel as this is a disservice to the public. Nolte's father was a sorry human being. So what. He needed to get over it and get a life. Glorifying or excusing his behavior just because he had a sorry father is not a worthwhile objective for the entertainment industry to pursue.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Affliction" (1998) is the story of a man, Nick Nolte, who disappears.
We are told that right away at the beginning by his brother, Willem
Dafoe, who narrates.
The story is about why he disappears. This story is told slowly and with big detours that make it seem as if that's what the story is about, but they are not what the story's about. They apparently are meant to shed light on the central character, that of Nick Nolte. He's a cop in a small snowy town in New Hampshire (actually Quebec locations are used). His father, James Coburn, is an alcoholic. Coburn's part seems to keep repeating over and over the same thing, which is that his sons are not men. They do not put women in their place. Coburn's father was a real man, he tells us. Indeed, Nolte is little more than an errand boy for the big local businessman who is busy buying up property. The story seems to be about that for awhile. It's not.
Nolte's pal Jack takes a man hunting and that man dies by gunshot. The story seems to be about that. It's not. Nolte has suspicions that the accident was murder. He fulminates and imagines, but the story never mentions any facts of any investigations. None at all. We are supposed to believe that Nolte's suspicions were made up out of thin air.
Nolte has a hard time with his estranged wife and daughter. He even goes to a lawyer to try to change the custody arrangement. The story might be about that. It isn't.
The story is about how Nolte carries on with respect to his wife, his dad, his job, his employer, his affair with Sissy Spacek, and the hunting accident. It's a character study of Nolte's character, who suffered from his father's trying to make him into a man.
How is this story or characterization handled? Not very well. One minute Nolte seems rational. The next minute he does something really emotional. He does some things that are really very irrational or stupid. We are not shown anything that his father did that could have influenced his character's behavior in this way. Yes, he made his boys chop at some frozen wood. Is that it? No, of course not, but still the story doesn't hang together well.
After awhile, we see that this is not a thriller, not a mystery or detective story, but a drama about a man with problems and no tools to cope with them. He won't listen to the one person he's closest to, which is Sissy Spacek; and he places too big a burden on her. He won't even go to get a tooth extracted when he has a toothache.
The acting is more than adequate. The locations are fine. Paul Schrader's screenplay is where this picture runs into problems. Although the movie seems to have impressed voters and many IMDb reviewers, I was left with a very lukewarm feeling. I didn't believe the characters. I didn't believe Nolte as this weak man. I didn't believe the one-note Coburn character or even his long-suffering wife. Dafoe's part and narration added very little, except a paycheck.
The sheriff of a frigid New Hampshire town investigates a shooting. The apple does not fall far from the tree. That is what the title refers to. Raised by an abusive father, a man turns out to be a lousy husband and father. The script is sloppy and disjointed, with too many secondary characters crammed in. It moves in fits and starts, but never really settles in and finishes with a whimper. Nolte has some good moments but too often seems to be sleepwalking, delivering his lines in a barely intelligible low growl. Spacek and Dafoe are fine, but neither gets much screen time. Coburn is interesting if a bit too cartoonish in his Oscar-winning role of the father from hell.
AFFLICTION is really a marvelous movie, and Nick Nolte show a very dark side of himself, darker then he have shown in real life the last years, Oh yes - I remember him in HULK! But here he is something human, a person who cross the line. The plot dwell about the the past with his brother Rolfe - his violent and alcoholic father and their dead mother, and now grown up - Wade Whitehouse is nothing, meanwhile brother is teacher in a college. And right between stand Maggie Fogg, Wades girlfriend - and his friend Jack - an probable accident push them all away. They all stand in Wades way into the fire, and the whole thing triggers with Wades father Glen. James Coburn absolutely deserve his Oscar - but I think Nick Nolte should have one too - this is a great movie! Leonard
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