In suburban Reston, Virginia, George Washington University American History professor Michael Faraday is still mourning the death of his wife, FBI agent Leah Faraday, after three years. His inside knowledge of the agency colors what he teaches in his classes. Although on good terms with Leah's ex-partner, Whit Carver, and the agency in general, Michael wants the agency at least to acknowledge their responsibility in her death in the line of duty. Michael is moving on with his personal life, he being in a serious relationship with his former teaching assistant Brooke Wolfe. Although he likes Brooke, Michael and Leah's nine year old son, Grant Faraday, may not yet be quite ready for Brooke to be a permanent part of their lives. It is only in helping adolescent Brady Lang who he sees in medical distress that Michael meets his new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang, Brady's parents. In the process, Michael and Brooke becomes friends with the Langs, as Grant and Brady become friends. ... Written by
It seems like every year, there's one or two films which are far from perfect but nonetheless shake us up in ways better films don't quite do. Last year, it was BULWORTH, and this year, it's ARLINGTON ROAD. Obviously, after all that's happened this decade in America, from Waco to Oklahoma City, the time is ripe for a movie to explore the cracks in the American dream which brought about events like those. This film ultimately asks more questions than it answers, but that may just be a condition inherent to this type of film. More troubling is two things: (1) Though I agree with those(and I'll try not to give away too much here) who theorize the ending changes the whole perspective of the film, there are still too many key narrative cheats(a conversation Robbins supposedly had with Bridges' son seems unbelievable, and the traffic light scene near the end also is) to make it fully effective; (2) The film seems a little confused of what it's about; it is a study of one man's psyche, or the nation's?
Still, ARLINGTON ROAD shouldn't be dismissed. There are troubling questions explored, and you don't have to be a conspiracy nut to believe those so-called "fringe" hate groups are entering the mainstream at a frightening rate for a so-called "civilized" society. The ending is also powerful, and though I understand it, more than anything else, was responsible for the delays, I applaud whoever was in charge for not changing it(though again, how they got there is another story). Bridges' performance is another thing which makes more sense once you look back with the ending of the film in mind, and it doesn't seem like over-acting. Robbins is a little more problematic; there are scenes where he's convincing, and then scenes where he goes over-the-top and shouldn't. Hope Davis doesn't have a big part, but she injects a lot into it as usual. But the biggest surprise here is Joan Cusack. Anyone who thinks of her only as a (good)comic actress will be in for a shock; there's one scene involving her which is the scariest in the film.
Again, ultimately, while it leaves you with nagging doubts about the quality, ARLINGTON ROAD makes you think enough to recommend it.
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