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Am baffled at the low ratings and poor reviews this film has gotten. Would this still have been the case if Nick Cage were not an A-List actor? I thought this film to be a phenomenal character piece that kept me gripped until the very end. James Franco once again shows his chops as one of the best actors of his generation. Perhaps the film was a little too real for many to take and showed a life of prositution that was not through Hollywood goggles (ie Pretty Woman). With the exception of Scott Caan, all the performances were stellar and the movie was a phenomenal debut for any first time director. I hope that you haters out there do not sway Mr. Cage away from his position behind the lens.
I guess it's hard to address serious issues when you're dealing with a
plot about a flamboyant southern belle who raises her son to be a
natural-born-whore, because this movie is considered to be a failure
even though it really isn't. It's neither the ready-made slice-of-life
that Sundance specializes in, nor is it an innovative film like "Pi,"
so casual independent fans have little reason to like this (they
probably dislike Paul Morrissey, too). So there's already a few
misconceptions about the film, but add to that that it's an actor's
film: what else are we supposed to expect from Nicolas Cage? The movie
is a mix of piano music and prostitution, and it's just like Cage's
acting -- hyper-real and over-the-top, classy and trashy at once.
The movie is partially a series of differing acting styles -- Blethyn's comic exaggeration, Franco's sleepy mysteriousness, Stanton's quiet control, Cage's funhouse tricks. But I think Cage deserves a certain amount of credit -- he doesn't scuzzify the material or romanticize it; he creates some interesting scenes (and handles most of the more potentially offensive ones with as close to grace as possible); he indulges all of his actors. And there is some real pain in the story, about not being able to switch jobs, and how vagabonds have nothing to show for their life. There are times when this goes where few films do in terms of honesty, yet the script does have increasing problems as it goes along. A scene like the one where Cage makes his appearance, seen through Sonny's drunken haze, works only because of the oddness of it; it feels stolen from other films because it's supposed to be there for the type of movie this is. But the film is at its best when it resists any "type." 8/10
Sonny, the son of a New Orleans whore, returns home from the army
to start a new life far away from prostitution. He finds that, even in
and let live' New Orleans, one's past is hard to escape.
The characters in this film are disturbing, volitile and manipulative. Other times they are sensitive, caring and fragile. Even Cage's over the top portrayal of a pimp, left me with the feeling that people such as this existed in the early 80's sex industry. The film captured excellent and emotional performances by James Franco, Brenda Blethyn, Harry Dean Stanton and Mena Suvari. Nicholas Cage, in his directorial debut, brings to life a script that fits well with his 'outside the box' body of work. The unusual sound track relied heavily on Bach and Beethoven with Devo and Wall of Voodoo mixed in.
Sonny was shown to a US audience for the first time at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. A superb Roger Ebert interview of Mr. Cage followed. During the interview, we learned that the film went into production 3 weeks after Mr.Cage decided to produce and direct the project. It was shot primarily in a French Quarter building that Mr. Cage happened upon, purchased and now does not know what to do with. Filming lasted 6 weeks. Even if you consider the fact that Nicholas Cage first read the script many years ago, intending to play the part of Sonny, it is unbelievable that this film went from 'green light' to 'in the can' in 9 weeks.
What a beautifully, honest film! Nic Cage makes his Directorial debut and
extremely successful one at that. Not knowing what to expect going into
film I was thrilled to find a brilliantly acted, enthralling story unfold
before my eyes.
My hat is off to James Franco who did an amazing job of portraying an emotionally conflicted young man in a performance that reminds me a great deal of a young Brando or Montgomery Clift. In fact all the actors did a sterling job with each character slowly unraveling as the script built. What struck me the most about this film was the evidence of creative freedom that can only come from a director who truly understands the vulnerability and sacred space that an actor must work in.
"Sonny" is a film that gives me hope that all is not lost in "Hollywood". It is a film that you can't help but become a part of. It is a film that reeks of truth, honesty and character. A perfect cast, solid script, excellent music and the lightest of directorial touches make for a must see film.
The truths explored in `Sonny' are not easily accessible to those who have never faced the choice that faces Sonny Phillips: whether to `square up,' or continue in a life style with extremely limited options, and little room for growth. Many who are born into a life of prostitution never seriously consider leaving it, most who have never experienced that life style are unaware of the dishonesties and injustices inherent in living on their more socially-acceptable middle-class level. The story sums up neatly: Sonny comes home after a stint in the army with the goal of leaving behind his former life style as a male prostitute. His mother, Jewel, who turned him out when he was twelve years old, now lives off of Carol, a beautiful young whore who has Sonny's old bedroom. Jewel wants to keep Sonny with her, and have him work as a team with Carol.
Somehow, 26-year-old James Franco is able to tap into a wellspring of emotional depth to show the anguish attendant in the decision Sonny tries to make and honor. Somehow, Nicolas Cage was able to lead him to it. What these two have accomplished should not be overlooked or undervalued. `Sonny' is a magnificent achievement. It is a movie that explores many themes, paramount among them that each of us is worthy of love, capable of innocence and growth. Real affection can be found in the unlikeliest of places, respect shows itself in many ways, trust is fragile, and love doesn't protect anyone from anything. Franco's performance could be considered nothing short of miraculous, if it weren't known how hard-working an actor he is. This range of talent hasn't been seen since 1955; his slight frame belies his power, and his smile is an endearing joy. Mena Suvari, as his love-interest, Carol, is also an unexpected delight, bringing to mind nothing so much as Carroll Baker's performance in `Baby Doll.' Her combination of innocence and sexuality is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe's, and it's nice that someone is on the scene to keep that flame alive. Also noteworthy is Brenda Vaccaro as Meg, an old trick of Sonny's who's eager to spend time with him again. She brings a warmth and generosity to a role that could seem ludicrous in a lesser actress. Not least among all these terrific talents is Brenda Blethyn as Sonny's mother Jewel. Although her southern accent seems questionable, it's difficult to think of another actress who could make someone who's done something this despicable to her child, seem genuine and likable. As her friend, Harry Dean Stanton also pulls off something unexpected, bringing depth of character to someone whose occupation as a shoplifter could otherwise lead us to think of as shallow. But it is a director's vision that pulls a movie together, and Nicolas Cage is to be heartily and enthusiastically commended for what he's accomplished here. `Sonny' is a wonderful movie.
i am a film student and i make it a point to stay up till 330 a.m just
to watch movies like this. first there were slow moments, and some
forced actions between characters, but franco's acting is always
superb. i mean the shot where he flips out in the car, or when he
screams at the naked girl on the floor. directing is basic. the editing
is fast and tells the story well. i liked all the characters, the
mother had me hating her the second she spoke and james made me feel
bad for his character.
i honestly think that if you want to see a good undiscovered movie that wont win awards, but can be picked apart for joy and scrutiny then this will do it. overall acting is very well, and the story has a few plot holes but if you watch the direction the director wants you to then it makes up for it
I really enjoyed the slightly unusual dimension brought to the film by Nicholas Cages's direction, showing the same characteristics as many of the films in which he has a leading role. The role of Yellow acid was a bit over the top but the other roles all believable and well acted. The much worked cliché of being drawn back into a rut was kept interesting by the unlikely paradox that a good looking and sexually adapt male could struggle to impress in normal situations simply because of the stigma and baggage of his previous occupation. James Franco was an excellent choice as Sonny portraying the on the surface shy but extremely confident individual with great believability.
I'll be honest, my reasoning for renting this was to watch Franco's
performance. I'm coming to respect his talent and the roles he chooses;
So I watched the trailer and thought that it might stink. I held my breath. All I can say is 'wow'. This movie is gritty and intense and lacks the Hollywood gloss - which I loved. It's REAL. It's not pretty. It's life.
I've been kicking around the idea of pursuing acting and high-tailing it to a good school, so I watched all the performer's in this like a hawk. I really did. And I couldn't see the acting. It blew me away. Everyone, down to the bit parts were spot on. Watch their eyes, everyone gives that honesty that you don't see the actor's...you loose yourself in the characters despite yourself. So I really resonated with one writer's comment on here that this is an actor's film. If you're looking for Hollywood this isn't it. I will be seeking out more Indie's now, and checking out that scene.
Besides Franco, I was equally impressed with H.D. Stanton; his kitchen scene was another one of those 'wows' for me. When the movie was over I just sat there and realized what a surprise of a film it wound up being. I expected, I don't know what I expected really, but certainly not that.
For anyone who hasn't seen it: if you're into character study and performance, it's worth it. If you're looking for simple entertainment, it won't hold you and you'll be disappointed.
This was the first time I went back and watched a movie with the commentary on, I watched it with the writer's commentary first (which is hilarious at some points and cracked me up) and then with Nic's. I enjoyed both.
*btw, I forgot to mention also that I thought the music was great also. The classical pieces were a good touch, Ring of Fire has been in my head for days and is driving me nuts; the soft theme is just haunting; emotional and tender. Subtly tragic and lonely, like the film itself. Some people might not really get this movie. I thought it was quite powerful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie last night and I am still thinking about the
characters in the movie Sonny. I thought the characters were very
unique and displayed some deep emotion, which is definitely not
something I can say about the characters in most other "mainstream"
movies. James Franco does an excellent job and is able to convey a lot
of emotion (or lack of) through his facial expressions. Also, the scene
where he flips out on the trick for not paying him his full amount was
I can understand why some people disliked Sonny though; there is not a lot of action in the film but much more focus on the characters' personal traits and lives. To some people (like my boyfriend) lack of action automatically makes a movie boring. However, I think sometimes action in movies is dazzling yet empty. Sonny is a great movie, especially if you like to watch movies that focus more on interactions between people rather than action.
Sonny is a brilliant story of a young man who desperately wants to leave his past behind and begin a new life. However, the past catches up with him and he has no choice but to revert to the life he so longed to leave behind. The acting in this film is absolutely brilliant. James Franco doesn't cease to surprise me with his powerful performances. He's definitely fantastic in this film. Nicholas Cage's directorial debut is not bad, but there were a couple of loopholes in the plot which he could have filled in. Despite that, he's done quite a good job. Sonny is a great drama and a must-watch. I think it definitely deserves a 9/10.
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