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First Snow is a movie of which the plot can be outlined in a minute. A
man (Pearce) is stuck in a little town on the side of the highway where
the only attraction is the psychic (Simmons). He spits out some normal
predictions, then freaks out and says he doesn't see a future for
Pearce's character. Pearce laughs it off, but after all the other
predictions come true, he goes back to the same guy. He says this time:
"You will be safe until the first snow"
Of course, the clichéd plot line would be that he goes paranoid beyond belief, which for part of it is like this, but the film sets up multiple possibilities of his death that keep you intrigued. The film could have many alternate endings because of all the other ways he could die that are set up in the movie.
But the ending is perfect. The last shot of the film is the best I've ever seen except for Glory and maybe The Shawshank Redepmtion. I also feel J.K. Simmons and William Fichtner both gave performances worthy of a Best Supporting Actor Nomination, more Fichtner than Simmons, but since it is April it's doubtful they'll stand a chance in Oscar season. The screenplay is top notch and Oscar-Worthy as well.
But the movie fall short of a 10/10 because it no suspense is built. For this kind of film, suspense is necessary. But everything else is really good in this movie. But you should still see this movie, especially if you're into fate or destiny related movies
As soon as i read the cast for this movie i knew i would enjoy it. Pearce Perabo and Fitchner all give fine performances. At first glance you may think the plot line is cliché and overly simplistic, and you may be right, but it is the way the story is told, the setting, and the great performance from Guy Pearce that will really suck you in and have you thinking about this movie for long after it is over. This is the kind of movie that is good for multiple viewings. Even though i've only seen it once, im sure you would pick up more bits and pieces form watching it a second time around. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys physchological thrillers that make you think. This is not for action junkies that can't enjoy a movie unless it layed out in front of them.
Judging from other reviews and comments, missing Guy Pearce's
performance in 'Memento' helps appreciate 'First Snow'. Here he
impressively fleshes out the script's thin characterization of Jimmy
Stark, a traveling salesman and life-long huckster who becomes
convinced his impending death was foretold by a roadside psychic. The
chance encounter sets into motion events he torments himself and those
around him to control, thrashing from one catastrophe to another
uncertain of their significance. Ultimately everything matters, major
and minor, past and present cleverly interlocking for a final
resolution. It's a solid and memorable portrayal of a man
simultaneously forced to face both his past and his fate.
As good as it is though it's trumped by J.K. Simmons' terrific and too-short portrayal of Vacaro, the middle-aged nomad living out a solitary existence with an old pickup and camper to show for his unique 'gift'. Here the film wonderfully avoids the usual dead Hollywood clichés (humourously contrasted and lampooned at one point) for a resigned true psychic who wants little more than to go fishing. Without histrionics or gesture Simmons is utterly convincing and engrossing throughout.
If only the same can be said of the sum. With two such strong performances focused on the universal question of fate vs. self-determination it's hard to put a finger on why the film never gels. The plot offers up enough clever and well though-out twists, events unfold naturally without reliance on astronomical coincidences to guide them, supporting characters are serviceable and the cinematography fine, yet the viewer is held at a disinterested distance. Part of the blame rests on the rushed and unsatisfying ending, some of it on where the film does rely on clichés to carry sub-plots - the usual romantic candle-lit tub scene for example to develop Jimmy's relationship with his live-in girlfriend. Only when Pearce and Simmons are on screen together did I care about the characters and those scenes were short.
Pearce and Simmons tack points on an otherwise promising but mid-pack film. 7/10.
This taut little thriller, directed by first-timer Mark Fergus, is a
real gripper with intelligence to spare and some seriously powerful
stuff. The protagonist/anti-hero, Jimmy Starks (Guy Pearce in a role
that hauntingly echoes his work in "Memento"), is a salesman/con man
who easily slides in and out of legit selling and shady conning. Pearce
carries this off beautifully, and is ably abetted in his downward
spiraling tale by J.K. Simmons as Vaccaro, the strangely prescient
soothsayer, William Fichtner as Jimmy's friend Ed, and some really
great unknown actors in other supporting roles, principally the actor
playing Jimmy's boss, who will hopefully go on to do more work on film
Jimmy accidentally meets up with fortune teller Vaccaro who accurately predicts a win by a local college basketball team that Jimmy's bet on, as well as a windfall from an on-the-level business deal that Jimmy's involved in. What Vaccaro does not predict is the riveting, ever-darker series of events that ensue when Jimmy finds out that a former partner of his in a crooked scam, Vince, is now out on parole from a stretch in the slammer.
For my money, this is the best American noir thriller of the year so far, and would make a great addition, once it's out on DVD, to anyone's library of neo-noirs. The ending in particular is really strong--always the mark of a well-made film.
Try not to miss this. It's great.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
People constantly talk about how young actors like Ryan Gosling and
Joseph Gordon-Levitt have the knack for choosing some great films to be
a part of and really showing off the immense range and talent they
contain. However, few people talk about the stalwart adults who have
been doing their job for years yet without credit. Unless you're a huge
star doing some good stuff along with mindless drivel in order to keep
your name in the minds of your viewers, you are thrown to the side or
mislabeled as a character actor. Only the young guys get hyped for the
quality of work they do because they aren't quite established yet.
Well, let me be the one to say that the most underrated leading man
working today is Guy Pearce. The man may not work as often as most, but
he seems to choose only the best to take the time forI can safely say
this because I have not and probably will not see The Time Machine.
From LA Confidential, to Memento, to The Count of Monte Cristo, to The
Proposition, Pearce is a force to reckon with. With Mark Fergus' debut
First Snow, you couldn't wish for a better performance from him or a
different actor to have played this role.
Our introduction is a short monologue by Pearce, from the road, with blood dripping down his face. From here we go back in time to the start of everything that is to happen, a fateful day where driving into a ditch lands him in the middle of nowhere with some time to kill. Our protagonist is a salesman with a gift for talking fast and planting the seed of interest in those he tries to sell. Jimmy has an idea that will get him on his own and secure his future for himself and possibly his girlfriend, whom he still has yet to commit to. Pearce is pitch- perfect with the cockiness needed to believe this character and even dislike him a bit, knowing that there must definitely be more to him than is shown on the surface. Our catalyst to find out what has happened in his past is a fortuneteller by the roadside, willing to give a reading for ten bucks. The reading goes bad though and ends abruptly with the knowledge that Jimmy doesn't have very long to live, in fact, he has until the first snow before his end.
Sometimes fate hits you when you least expect it. Had Pearce not seen the psychic, (played wonderfully by JK Simmons in a role that I have not seen him tackle before), he may not have been led on the path laid before him. The very knowledge of his demise is the jumpstart to why his life must end. Between the paranoia and jumping to conclusions from the fear of what he learned, he sets into motion a reunion of sorts with the demons he has learned to live with throughout his life. Will he be able to reconcile his soul before the end or will he drive himself to the edge, never wavering and never being able to forgive himself? First Snow is definitely a journey worthy of its time and setup.
While a simple story of redemption and the fragility of life, this movie hits all its marks dead- on. Jimmy's evolution as a man is believable and where he ends up is because he took his life into his own hands, to let it carry out on his own terms. He is told that no matter what road he chooses, the end will always be the same. It is up to him to take the time to say goodbye or to keep running from the inevitable. Through all his inner turmoil, we are also given a glimpse into the lives of those around him. This is a strong cast of people that help hold together the shattering performance from Pearce. Piper Perabo is fantastic as the bubbly girlfriend with the compassion and the love to stick with her man and accept that he has secrets, but allow him the space to deal with them on his own. Besides Simmons, we also have a couple acquaintances played by two favorites of mine, William Fichtner and Rick Gonzalez. Fichtner does what he does best and shows how effective he can be in a small role, redeeming himself for the paycheck he received on Blades of Glory. Although his role is small, and may seem a bit of a throwaway at first, by the end you learn that his was a very integral part in the decision Pearce finally makes.
At the end of the day, First Snow is an intelligently told, taut thriller. It is wholly character based and story driven, led by its emotional performances rather than confrontational action. Many of the most suspenseful moments take place just watching Pearce talk on the phone, not knowing what will happen next. Even the ending is practically perfect and very un- Hollywood. It is very subtle, and I almost thought Fergus wouldn't do it, but he does. He ends it how it needed to be ended and without the fanfare and in your face theatrics that lesser films would have used.
The movie portrays a gripping tale of what could be a cliché theme, "Man learns he has a short time to live," in an entertaining and captivating manner. Lead actor is great -- you almost hate him, but yet sympathize with his plight. Lead actress is beautiful. An impressive independent film that was fun to watch. Set in desert with great cinematography. Effective score with lots of great music, love to buy the soundtrack, too. The movie made me think about all the strokes of good luck and bad luck I have live through, and that family members have lived through. It all seems so random, but is it? The film seems first to be portraying a story about someone else, until the viewer realizes it is a lot about the viewer, too. How long will we live, how will we live, what did we do to lead to this conclusion, and what can we do about it?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Greetings again from the darkness. Being a fan of "Children of Men", I
was very anxious for writer/director Mark Fergus' directorial debut ...
especially when I found out it starred Guy Pearce and was a
psychological thriller. While an interesting idea, the execution
prevents this one from really becoming the gem it should be.
Pearce is very solid as the salesman-cum-con man whose perspective on life changes drastically after a chance reading by a road side psychic, subtley played by J.K. Simmons. With his confidence shot and his emotions unraveling, Pearce does a nice job of capturing the fear and uncertainty of a man facing the abyss.
Piper Perabo and William Fichtner are OK in their support roles, but neither character is especially well written. Also, in what should have been the climax of the film, Pearce's character comes face to face with his past (in the form of life long friend, Vincent). This scene just doesn't pack the necessary punch that the film was building towards.
Still despite these weaknesses, the film is better than many and is at least somewhat thought-provoking. We can't help but hope for even better future projects for Mark Fergus.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From the look of the reviews here on IMDb, this movie obviously has its fans. I really didn't care for it at all, and I have been trying to think why some people find it so well done, and some find it completely boring. It is definitely well filmed. It looks good and establishes a consistent tone. So fans of indie drama will recognize some of what they like about those kinds of films. The flip side is that because the movie takes the time to show the little details and develop a mood, there will be those who find it too slow. I think the subject matter is also one of things that divides people about this movie. In the story, the main character meets a quirky mystic who predicts he will die soon. So you get some themes of fate and destiny, along with a little mysticism. Personally, I didn't find any of that interesting. I also thought that there wasn't much story to it: once he finds out he may die soon, it becomes a character study. Except nothing really memorable or interesting happens. I like Guy Pearce a lot, and I thought he did a good job with who the character was at the beginning. I would actually like to see Guy get to play another character like this, because I think he could really let loose with a slimy, self centered, Daniel Cleaver type of role. But it just felt like it didn't go anywhere. SPOILER: at the end of the movie, Guy's character avoids the death that we think is coming, and drives off. We are then told he died in a car accident off screen. So some viewers are sure to see that as a cheat. I liked Piper Perabo, but she didn't really get more than a couple minutes screen time. I really disliked the guy who played the fortune teller. I thought he was the worst thing about this movie. For me, he was just really goofy, and it makes it even more annoying that so many reviewers praise his hokey act as Oscar worthy. So, to sum up, it was nice to look at, but I only give it a four.
FIRST SNOW involves a trade off. The action is slow, but there is a fairly compelling narrative. The story involves a brash young salesman who engages the services of a truck stop fortune teller, and finds that his life is nearly over. He's safe only until the first snow. Jimmy, played by Guy Pearce, must plan a course of action to determine the veracity of the prediction, and then act on his finding. FIRST SNOW creates a visual mood, and takes its' own sweet time to unfold. The film is a psychological thriller with the feel of a noirish foreign film. The two writers on this project collaborated on the far superior film, CHILDREN OF MEN, but FIRST SNOW makes a clever attempt to resolve the following conundrum. Our fate lies on whatever road we decide to take, yet nothing makes the gods laugh harder than when Man attempts to control his destiny. Guy Pearce's MEMENTO is a much better examination of the effect of predetermined events, but FIRST SNOW is certainly worth a look.
This movie brings home the lack of control we have over the direction our lives are taken. The setting shows how quietly beautiful the southwestern desert is and used here it contributes to the film's holding the viewers full attention. I liked how the suspense built as Jimmy realized he needed to confront and change his situation. Deirdre had just the right level of support for Jimmy but maintained her pride and integrity, putting their relationship at risk. Ed and Jimmy come across exactly as I would expect people in their kind of business to be with Ed supplying support Jimmy needed. The cast made their roles totally believable. I really enjoyed this movie.
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