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In idyllic Mid-Coast Maine, the Fowler family's only son Frank comes home from his freshman year at college for summer vacation. His mother Ruth, the school choir director, is unhappy with Frank dating soon-to-be divorced mother Natalie who is several years his senior, but Frank's father Matt, the town doctor, doesn't see a problem. While Frank considers holding off his future for Natalie, her jilted husband causes them all problems until an unthinkable tragedy shakes the community to its very core. Written by
A dark drama that will have you glued to the screen
Sometimes, it's fun to go see a movie without having any expectations, or even having knowledge of the basic plot or premise. It's also nice to see a movie that would usually get ignored in a crowded market get a large amount of attention without having the plot be too obvious from trailers or commercials. Although In the Bedroom has been in theatres for a number of months, it's only recently started getting attention and positive word of mouth after Sissy Spacek's Golden Globe nomination.
Tom Wilkinson plays Dr. Matt Fowler and Sissy Spacek plays his music teacher wife, an older couple living in a small Maine fishing town, who become worried when their only son becomes involved with an older woman with two kids, played by Marisa Tomei. Their worries soon prove to be warranted, as the woman and her estranged husband proceed to destroy the teenager's life. Ultimately, it has a devastating effect on the couple's everyday life and their relationship.
This movie is a fascinating and powerful character study of people in a small town and how conflict and tragedy affect them. It is a story that takes place in three clear-cut acts separated by two twists, both of which take the viewer by surprise although they're both foreshadowed and somewhat expected.
It's hard not to compare this movie to the recently released Monster's Ball, one of my least favorite movies of last year, but it's a fair comparison, since it also showed a series of tragic and sudden events and how they affect the people in a small town. Unlike Monster's Ball, I found the actions and emotions of the characters in this movie to be a lot more plausible, and you can't help feeling the despair of the couple as they deal with their son's problems.
In the Bedroom also compares to last year's The Deep End, and Sam Raimi's underrated A Simple Plan, two other slow movies that dealt with how small town folk deal with problems and how those problems sometimes lead to more drastic actions. It's never clear whether the Fowlers disapprove of their son's relationship is because the woman is older and has two kids or because of the problems that her estranged husband brings to the relationship. At times, it seems like the Fowlers' only worry is that their son may not go to college in order to stick around and take care of his older lover and her kids.
Either way, the parents starts to drift apart due to their overpowering sense of grief and inability to change things, and it's not long before they're playing the blame game on who is responsible for their son's situation. When they finally explode, it's one of the most powerful film moments in recent memory. The shorter third act shows how they learn to cope and deal with their problems.
Despite the slow pace and the excessive length, the performances and the beautiful yet subdued camerawork and choice of setting keeps the viewer riveted to the screen.
It's been far too long since we've seen Sissy Spacek in a movie, and like this year's other comeback kid, Robert Redford, her age is showing. But her age also makes her perfect for the role of Ruth Lawler, as her world -weary eyes seem suitably representative of Ruth's own frustrations.
Like last year's The Deep End and The Others, this movie shows how an over-protective mother can alienate her children while trying to help them. Spacek gives another groundbreaking performance that shows talented yet less experienced actresses Tilda Swinton. Nicole Kidman and especially Halle Berry how to create realistic emotions on screen. Late in the movie, there is a particularly tense yet short confrontation between Spacek and Marisa Tomei that shows how much better these two actresses are.
Tom Wilkinson has played comedic parts in The Full Monty and has appeared in a number of period pieces including Sense and Sensibility and The Patriot. In the Bedroom proves him to be quite a talented dramatic lead actor, as his performance allows him the full range of emotions, and he creates a character as believable and real as Spacek's.
First-time director Todd Field is probably best known as playing Nick Nightingale, the pianist who gets Tom Cruise in a bit of trouble in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Field uses the Maine setting beautifully to create a portrait of the couple's life, and he uses the pacing to create insurmountable tension before driving a wedge between the couple. The script by Field and Robert Festinger is one of the better ones of the year with dialogue that is far too real, yet perfectly suited for talents such as Spacek and Wilkinson.
Obviously, this movie will be getting a good deal of Oscar attention due to the performances by Spacek, Wilkinson, Tomei, and the terrific script. If you want to see action, go see Blackhawk Down; if you want to see the fine form of filmmaking as perfected by two master thespians and a talented new director, than In the Bedroom will have you riveted to the screen. Rating: 9 out of 10
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