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|Index||106 reviews in total|
Never mind `Traffic'. Forget `Gladiator'. To find 2000's finest, most
nail-on-the-head perfect film, you'll need to look a little deeper. A small
film that only enjoyed limited release in theaters and isn't getting much
attention on DVD either, is Keith Gordon's latest, `Waking the Dead'.
Back in 1992, there was another under-appreciated independent film called `A Midnight Clear' that had the misfortune of being released alongside the likes of `Unforgiven' and `Last of the Mohicans'. For reasons I can't fathom, this brilliant film seemingly did nothing to help Gordon's career. His budgets stayed small, but he continued looking for the most daring and fascinating material. In 1996, he released `Mother Night', another war-themed film, only this time set in the aftermath of WWII.
With `Waking the Dead', Gordon outdoes himself. He casts Billy Crudup as Fielding Pierce, an ambitious Coast Guard officer who'd like to be president--and he means it. His world is turned upside-down when he meets Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), who just wants to feel like she `lives on the planet'. Fielding and Sarah could not be more different, yet they cannot live without each other. Each is the antithesis of the other, which dooms their relationship and intensifies their love at the same time.
The film begins with the announcement of Sarah's death, and continues pulling you back and forth in time. Employing this storytelling technique and maintaining the momentum of the story is a difficult task. While we see Fielding wrestle with her memory, we're shown the powerful connection these two had during her life.
What's more, Fielding begins to see visions of her. Some of these visions are so real, he begins to believe she's alive. The hauntings come just as he begins campaigning for the U.S. House. It begins to affect his life and threatens his campaign. The question of whether Sarah is really alive is the dramatic carrot Gordon dangles in front of us. It's then we realize that she was his conscience in life and remains so in death. Gordon pours it on right until the very last frame. He gets the best performance of Connelly's career out of her, plus a jaw-dropping performance out of Crudup that's worthy of an Oscar. Whoever was in charge of plugging this film for awards nominations must have fallen asleep at the wheel (though I see it did win an Independent Spirit award for its script).
That this film or others in the same situation get no recognition is definitely for the best. The more popular a film becomes, the more idiots that come out of the woodwork to second-guess it. So best to leave it to be discovered by those willing to seek it out. It is 2000's crown jewel.
Grade: A (but only because there isn't a higher grade)
I cannot recommend this film strongly enough. This story celebrates the
timelessness of love without cynicism or irony. It portrays a relationship
in all its many forms: moments of joy, frustration, passion, tenderness,
tragedy, and even a bit of insanity. Fielding Pierce and Sarah Williams
the two politically-minded lovers. While they share very similar political
goals, their means of achieving those goals are vastly different. Fielding
is the ambitious golden boy, campaigning through the political machine in
effort to affect change by working within the established system. Sarah is
the rebel outsider, who believes real change will never be accomplished
within a corrupt system, leaving political revolution as the only
alternative. The film never passes judgement on which is the nobler or the
more effective method. Rather, it chooses to portray Fielding and Sarah as
two people whose love for what they believe in is second only to the love
they have for each other.
Currently showing on cable this movie is sensational. A young want to be
politician apparently loses the love of his life, and the film centres on
that love and his grief. Rarely can such emotions have been more
compellingly and brilliantly portrayed on film.It is thought provoking and
often scary too.
There is a superb screenplay and all the performers are
Anyone who has every loved another will know that you see that love wherever
you go; and the lead actor's portrayal of that emotion is at genius
level.The most emotionally charged scene is at the restaurant of the
election results are known, and I for one cannot recall any movie where a
particular scene is so intensely sensitive or almost uncomfortably
realistic.For quiet and justifiably restrained but wonderful adult
entertainment, this is the best film I have seen in years. 10 out of 10.
Following in the big footsteps of "The Chocolate War", "A Midnight Clear" and "Mother Night", Waking the Dead" is perhaps the most cohesive and satisfying film by Keith Gordon to date. This is a film composed of two parts. The first part is a love story which takes place in America but focuses on the violent overthrow of the Salvador Allende republic in Chile. Fielding Pierce, the protagonist, is an idealistic naval officer from a working class family. He meets Sarah (played by the always lovely Jennifer Connelly), a free-thinking social activist, and they begin a whirlwind romance. Soon, though, she leaves for Chile, where she is murdered during the coup d'etat staged by Pinochet. Fielding, of course is devastated, and it leaves a scar on him which still hasn't healed when the film flashes forward to the eighties, when he has gotten into politics. Attached now to an important politico's daughter, Fielding has to make some important decisions regarding the ideals he holds so important while coping with a tremendous loss he never really came to grips with. Many critics have panned this film for being contrived and unbelievable, mostly because of the "ghost" sequences and the chronological flashback "vignette" structure which Gordon uses to paint the story. I found it refreshing after so many Pulp Fiction wannabe timeline films having been made in the last 10 years. Also, isn't it a bit wonderful to see a film that equates personal emotional turmoil with personal idealistic/political turmoil. In the midst of dealing with the loss/reincarnation of Sarah, Fielding is forced into making hard choices about what kind of man he is going to be; a member of the political machine or a true servant of the people. A rare treat.
The ability of 'Waking The Dead' to polarize critical opinion is the best
indication of how powerful this film really is. In short, you either love
it or hate it. I LOVED IT!
Yes, the story of an up and coming politician falling in love with a beautiful, left-wing activist is a bit trite but no more so than the 70's in which they shared their life together were naive, idealistic and a necessary part of the evolution of American social conscience.
I thought the performance by Jennifer Connelly as 'Sara' was astounding. Her ability to convey the sentiment of her beliefs in anger and love is nothing short of inspiring. If you're not in love with Sara by the end of this movie, you should check into the Emergency ward of your local hospital because there's no heart in your chest or warm blood flowing in your veins.
Billy Crudup's performance as 'Fielding' could be interpreted as "flat" only to those who would say that life imitates art and not the other way around. I found Crudup's acting highly believable for the character he was portraying. I know lots of extremely intense people who hide behind a facade of calm out of necessity. Where he needed to be good, he was exceptional. Case in point, during his celebration dinner with family after winning the election, his declaration of his burgeoning insanity is extremely convincing and frightful.
Aside of great individual performances, the overall chemistry between Sara and Fielding was tangible, necessary and believable, as this is a story about love and why true love is endless. The editing, jumping between the present and the past, helped to make the point that we all have the power to change the world through the people we come into contact with and in this way we're all eternal, all powerful. To top it off, the haunting presence that was Sara after she was presumably killed, lends an element of mystery and hope in a metaphysical and real way, to a movie that could have been just another, too sweet love story in the hands of lesser director.
Though Waking The Dead has its flaws, they're too few to dwell on. I've watched it now three times and every time I appreciate it more than the last. I suggest its detractors do the same before making hasty negative assessments.
What made this film so hauntingly beautiful was that fact that the ghost being chased wasn't just Sarah - it was who they both were in their youth, and the overwhelming emotion and honesty that is first love. Was Fielding really seeking Sarah or who he once was - what he once stood for when he loved her? Sometimes when we grow up we let our well-meant integrity, even our simplest dreams, die under the 'reality' of who we end up becoming. I thought this film did an excellent job at showing someone mourning his youth, his wild ideas - and his truest love. I thought Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly both did amazing jobs - the intensity of their performances is what really drove the story. Beautiful acting, beautiful movie.
You'll have to choose sides in 'Waking The Dead'. Are you going to be
an obedient politician or a liberal activist? Those opposing viewpoints
cause a tug-of-war, with eternal love playing the ever-tightening knot
in the middle. Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly are Fielding and
Sarah; he the idealistic politician and she the faithful revolutionary.
We know from the start that she dies via car bomb while raging against
the machine. The movie's chronology is all over the place (which is
occasionally confusing) and we see them when they're blissfully happy
and otherwise. But after she's gone, the upstanding young man fears for
his marbles after he starts to see & hear his dead lover everywhere. Is
she actually alive or is he just too insane for public office?
Seeing ghosts is tricky. It can turn into unintentional humour without the proper direction. Director Keith Gordon doesn't pull it off as well as he should, but at least the heat between them seems real. Crudup and Connelly make a great romantic match. She's sandpaper to his block of wood, but she's also his conscience. The phrase "Jiminy Cricket" is actually used, and he succeeds politically only as he's failing emotionally. He clearly needs her whispering in his ear, even if he wouldn't agree with what she would have to say. It's clear that she wouldn't approve of what he's become and he knows it. So I guess that makes her the ghost of Jiminy Cricket too.
The movie would be a turd without strong performances. While no one in the supporting cast has lingered in my memory, the talented leads have. They're both good in almost everything they do, so I expected them to be an excellent duo here too. Connelly has since won an Oscar and Crudup probably will too. Some of Gordon's directorial choices undercut what his actors are doing. His style of editing and use of too many arty shots don't work. When the actors are already front row centre, the director should get out of their way.
What grabbed me about 'Waking The Dead' was that both Fielding and Sarah are trying to make the world a better giant rock. She's counterculture and he's as mainstream as it gets. Since the story boils down to politics versus religion, it's no wonder the film didn't find an audience. Most people have opinions on those matters, yet political correctness demands you not share them. But you ARE allowed to discuss love. The movie knows how to get that right...the ache, the irritation, the yearning, and the loss of true love.
I was truly surprised to see a young actor really passing on to the audience,his feelings as to his feebleness as a human being when confronted with a priceless loss. Most of us that have been through similar experiences , always expect to identify ourselves with characters in motion pictures but in most cases, we kind of feel frustrated that movie plots don't generally allow the performer to go all the way, cutting their role immersions short Billy Cudrup didn't let that happen and this time we fared better. The same can be said about Jennifer Connelly whose acting talent can only be matched with her beauty.It is my honest opinion that both actors should have been given leading parts in major productions which unfortunately much to my disappointment or lack of information, did not happen. Keep up the excellent work, Billy and Jennifer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I very much enjoyed this movie. This is one of the few movies that you
can actually see the chemistry develop between the two main characters.
They were both passionate people, even if some of their passion was a
I kept thinking was Sarah really there at the end or was it just Fielding's imagination. I think that she probably wasn't there, but then he did answer the phone and it was her. Then we see Fielding running after her in the snow. Although in the beginning we see sarah's face as the person who was killed in the bombing.
Does anyone know for sure if she was really dead or was alive at the end? Jon Black
Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup) has one ambition: to be President of the
United States. His entire life is planned out to reach that goal. Only he
didn't plan on Sarah (Jennifer Connelly). Sarah is a free spirited, radical
human rights advocate. We meet them on the day she dies and then flash back
to the inception of their relationship in 1972. He is The Establishment
personified. She is an iconoclast. Two philosophies more incompatible
could not possibly exist, but despite everything, they fall in love.
The story then fast-forwards to Fielding's campaign for the House of Representatives ten years after Sarah's death. It is at this time that Fielding becomes obsessed with Sarah's ghost. He believes he is seeing her everywhere and that he is surely losing his mind. He begins to question his own philosophies and begins to lose his will to win the election.
The film is an engrossing character study of two very fascinating people cut of completely different cloth. The non-linear approach used by Director Keith Gordon was both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it provided important character development and motivation and at others, it jumped back and forth for no good reason. This often made the film seem disjointed and hard to follow. Gordon's direction was only fair, though he delivered accurate period renderings especially of the 1970's. There were too many instances of unnecessary stylizing. For instance, there was excessive use of monologue jump cuts, where he cut from the speaker saying one thing to the same speaker in the same spot saying something else. He used it so often that it looked like bad editing.
In addition, Gordon tended to focus on the schmaltzy romantic angle and downplayed the far more interesting philosophical tension. He did give us some dialectic, but generally cut away when the philosophical fireworks were just getting started. He also kept treading over the same ground in different ways. This made the story drag.
The acting by both leads was terrific. This film brings Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly together again, both having appeared in `Inventing the Abbotts'. Crudup was extremely impressive as the tormented politician. This was an exquisitely complex character and Crudup flexed the role to the max. Connelly was a bit more uneven in her role, sometimes playing the role with great force, but at others with a mousy self-consciousness that was inconsistent with the character. Still, she gave Sarah great depth as both a lover and a crusader, and a convincing passion for her beliefs.
This is an absorbing but slow moving romance that is a bit heavy handed, but nonetheless interesting. I rated it a 7/10. It showcases good performances by two young actors we will surely hear from again. Not recommended for impatient viewers.
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