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9 out of 10
Watching Todd Field's feature film debut `In the Bedroom,' I could not help but be impressed by the sheer audacity of the film, by the spot-on performances, and by the many twists and turns that no critic should reveal. Yet amidst all the film's obvious strengths, there was still something missing-something to tie it all together, something to endow the film with more than just a fleeting impression.
Ironically perhaps, I was provided this missing bit of information not by the film, but by a male audience member sitting at the end of my aisle, trying to explain the point of the film in less than derogatory terms to his female companion.
`You're missing the whole point of the film,' he said. `It was all about men being controlled by women.'
No doubt he read this interpretation from someone else's review of the film (and what a sweet piece of justice it would be if that critic were a woman). It is quite possible that he was not even aware of the ramifications of what he had said. But this man's legitimacy aside, his statement has not left me since, and the film in turn has had the same luck in escaping me.
We are first introduced to Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl, `Bully') and Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei, `My Cousin Vinny'), he a young college student with no immediate plans to settle down, she an older divorcee raising two children. They are in love, though for Frank she is little more than a `summer fling.' Meanwhile Natalie's ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother, `Mission: Impossible 2'), is unwilling to let her out of his life, and begins to be physically abusive to Frank. Frank's parents, Matt (Tom Wilkinson, `The Full Monty') and Ruth (Sissy Spacek, `The Straight Story')-both in top form here-show appropriate concern for their only son, and they intervene in this dangerous love triangle with unexpected twists and tragic results.
The film jumps about in tone from a light romantic romp to a seeming political treatise to a creepy, nocturnal thriller. Some have criticized the film for this alleged inconsistency in tone, slow pacing, and a deliberate ending. But these naysayers have overlooked the point.
Frank may not even really love Natalie, so much as he loves being controlled by her and sating his mother by being with her. Richard becomes a threat to everyone because he is unwilling to let Natalie consider him out of her life; he is a slave to her whim. The resulting tension reveals a rift between Frank's parents, and in particular, his father's actions in the end demonstrate a helpless allegiance to his wife and her command.
Field, who up until now has been primarily an actor (he was the piano player in `Eyes Wide Shut'), understands these important points but does not beat the viewer over the head with them. He presents a reality more raw and true than any other piece of film in recent memory. Yet he does so with a restraint that Hollywood seems to have forgotten. Most of the film's violence is overheard or implied, and only explicitly shown when necessary for the audience to completely understand what has happened. This allows for more subtle details, like a bridgekeeper who must run around in circles to alternate traffic between the road and the sea, to emerge as truly haunting, lasting images.
But `In the Bedroom' is not about any of these things. It is, first and foremost, about its characters. It does not fall prey to plot mechanics, nor does it flinch at exploring even the most sympathetic characters' darkest sides. For this and so many other reasons which are best left discussed behind closed doors between loved ones, `In the Bedroom' succeeds at turning the camera on flawed relationships of all forms, and it is one of the best films of the year.
A dark story told with amazing weight and balance, it is cinematically
Aside from the excellent performances by Wilkinson, Spacek and Tomei, it is
Field's film. He uses a deft touch to examine the lives of a couple devastated by loss. The perfection of this film lies in the small touches, the subtle gestures, the powerful symbolism that Field displays throughout. Even the most powerful
moment, the shooting, is done off camera. It isn't so much what you see, its what you don't, what Field implies throughout the film. He creates moments in this movie that convey complex emotion through subtle actions. The film creates
unsettling scenes without being disturbing. Reflections of actors moving as if underwater through their lives, we see them caught in the windows of their
home, ghosts in their house and in their lives, struggling to cope until the film's resolution. Attempting to heal each other and themselves through a single act of redemption that seems at the same time surprising and inevitable. It isn't my favorite movie, but i still think it's as close to a perfect film i've seen.
A rarity in modern cinema, In the Bedroom is a movie for thinking adults that is one of the most thorough yet subtle examinations of violence and its consequences I've ever seen. Tom Wilkerson gives a masterful and restrained performance, and Sissy Spacek and nearly everyone else is uniformly excellent. Although it is a searing and unflinching look at nearly unspeakable grief, it is poignant and thoughtful and even has scenes of humor if you are ready for it. Todd Field's screenplay is one of the most brilliant in recent memory. I really wish we had more mature stuff like this coming out of Hollywood. Powerful films that deal with violence and its aftermath and meaning like this make films like Kill Bill look even more repellent than they already are.
The film is, as all the critics say, emotionally involving, wrenching and all that. Acting is natural and realistic, down to the nitty-gritty. The valuable and rare thing here is that the story works against the most common plot at the movies today: the revenge plot. Here instead, revenge gets a more ambiguous and thoughtful treatment. We are accustomed to being flattered as an audience, sent home feeling good that "our" side wins in the end against the evil. In this film that stereotypical and simplistic Good vs Evil is taken apart. The revenge leaves us feeling unusually unsettled, which is a very good thing in a deeper sense.
So simple. So honest. So heartbreaking. I dare you to see this movie and
not go through a self-invasive, heartfelt understanding for the familial and
emotional conflicts these characters go through. one of the best films
shown at Sundance, hands down. Not a movie for the emotionally
squeamish...brutally powerful... Violent, excruciating truth and
beauty...the raw emotional power imbued into the scenes with Wilkinson and
Spacek are Oscar-worthy. Marisa Tomei finally gets a role worthy of her
talent since My Cousin Vinny. Utterly unforgettable, and a slam-dunk
certainty for some kind of oscar, whether screenplay, acting, or
I have friends who do not want to see dark movies. Too depressing,
given the news these days. I can understand that.
But farce grows quite tiresome. Clever repartee is fine sometimes. Action films are frequently exhausting and you can only watch so many cars, trains, planes and buildings explode. Plus, you are hungry an hour later.
This movie is a rare opportunity to miss excessive violence, pratfalls and smart-mouthed kids, teenage titillation, explosions, chases, stock characters, overacting and thin plot contrivances.
Enjoy a movie where the characters are complex, the actors spot-on in their craft, and the story is compelling.
Or don't. "Independence Day" is probably on cable somewhere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
`In The Bedroom' is a beautiful film, brilliantly paced, slow but steady,
climaxing with Sissy Spacek's smashing of a plate on the kitchen floor,
rolling heavily into the intensity of the inevitable but shocking
Spacek's character describes the torture of the emotional rollercoaster she feels after the murder of her son: "It comes in waves, and then nothing... like a rest in music - no sound, but so loud." Thusly she describes director Todd Field's unique story-telling style. Much of his film seems to take place in that musical rest.
The first and last acts are vaguely sprinkled with a hauntingly beautiful score by Thomas Newman. But the center and longest act is void of score, leaving us to grapple with the non-cinematic, chillingly real emotions that these characters seem to be sharing directly with (or hiding distinctly from) the viewer.
Cinematically speaking, the story is like an extremely well-crafted painting where the smallest, seemingly insignificant details are made noticeable in a device used by Field to allow us to peer deeper into the emotions set within the scene or shot - not merely at the shot itself.
Unanswered questions and vague silences, which would never work in a more contrived picture, speak volumes here, adding shape and depth to the overall story. And while some might see this film as morality play boosting corporal punishment and an "eye for an eye" mentality, ultimately it plays more as a story that tugs at the heartstrings and plays on one's fears purely for the sake of entertainment. As much as one could look for moral opinions in Shakespeare's "Hamlet", we moreover come away with an epic story told through masterful techniques - just as easily as with `In The Bedroom'.
"In The Bedroom" is not a Hollywood action-flick. This is not a summer-sizzle-fest or anything fitting of such tacky terminology. This is a perfect example of modern Film-as-Art, a classically crafted story told by modestly stylized means, and it's good to see such quality work emerging in this era so saturated with cinematic cliché.
Although quite unique, the film did bring to mind several other films that seem to compliment its style and mood: Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven", Udayan Prasad's "My Son The Fanatic", and Robert Redford's "Ordinary People". All are films that explore the dynamics of extreme challenge and change in the lives of thoroughly defined characters. `In The Bedroom', however, seems to stand out in this company as the example of a masterpiece.
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
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
Everything about this film is wonderfully done, from the restrained
direction and acting, to the inexorable progression to tragic
conclusion following preceding events. All the actors and acting are
excellent, with a particularly subtle and brilliant portrayal by Tom
Wilkinson as Dr. Fowler. Always great, he is, in my estimation, one of
the unsung and underrated actors in film today. Sissy Spacek is also
wonderful, and the inevitable emotional fall-out in their relationship
after their shared experience is beautifully done. Very human - and
Though difficult to watch, it is a great film, great story, with great performances all around by gifted actors. Not to be unsung are the excellent performances by Marisa Tomei, and all the other supporting actors. A film that would benefit one to watch more than once, there is that much substance there. Worth paying particular notice to is the opening metaphor in the scene on the lobster boat where Tom Wilkinson (Dr. Fowler) explains the nature of how a lobster-trap works - and the name the lobster-men (and tradition) have given to the inner part of the trap. This is the metaphor for the human story that will, tragically, unfold.
A great film, with great work all around. Todd Field is a director to remember.
Every once in awhile, a filmmaker comes along and adds a pitch-perfect
sensibility to a compelling story, well-written script, and perfect
cast. This has happened with In the Bedroom. Though I saw, and enjoyed,
director Todd Field's 2nd feature, Little Children, when it came out a
few years back, I was truly astounded by In the Bedroom.
At a time when Americans' tastes in films are getting more and more juvenile, In the Bedroom is that rare film; one aimed adults. The characters and story line is compelling, the shots kept simple, yet beautiful, and the feel of the film is as real as most you will see. In the Bedroom would fit in perfectly with the some of the films from golden age of the 70s film-making. Unfortunately, we are seeing this less and less of those types of films these days.
It is hard to find a false moment, whether in dialogue or behavior, in this film. It deals with circumstances that we hear about every day, yet is no less captivating because of it. We are not clobbered over the head with the moments we are meant to feel deeply, yet they are apparent and often devastating to watch. There is an old saying, "you know the truth when you see it", and that certainly applies to this film. There was a knot in my stomach the entire first 30 minutes of the film, as director Field slowly builds to something you know is inevitable, and almost can't bare to watch.
Excellent performances turned in by Spacek, Wilkinson, Tomei, as well as all the supporting players. Proof, once again, that actors often make some of the finest directors.
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