Police officer Dirk Hendricks (Bartlett) files an amnesty application for Alex Mpondo (Ejiofor), a member of the South African Parliament who can't remember the torture he once endured as a captive political activist. South African-born attorney Sarah Barcant (Swank), meanwhile, returns to her homeland to represent Mpondo, as well as Steve Sizela, Mpondo's friend who arrested along with him and ... See full summary »
When Morrie was a teenager, his parents died, leaving him a house, an irritable bowel, and siblings Jay and Ida to raise. Jump ahead 20 years: Jay is homeless, fits poorly into society, and was recently injured; Ida is jobless and sleeps with strangers; Morrie is married to the long-suffering Betty who is waiting for Morrie to get tenure before having children. They constantly have to kiss up to their holier-than-thou neighbors, one of whom is Morrie's department head. Morrie brings Jay home to recover, Ida decides to visit, the siblings make the neighbors ill at ease, a strange woman visits, and the cops want to talk to Jay. What about Morrie's irritated bowels? Written by
Though the title is derived from Audubon's priceless book and there are several references within the film corresponding to the title, it also serves as a metaphor. The film centres around a dysfunctional family and each member is like a bird. Morrie (Matthew Perry) is a bird who's lived in a cage for so long that he's finding it difficult to break free. His wife Bettie is like a bird who desperately wants to create a nest and nurture children. His brother Jay is a gentle young bird who keeps flying. And, similarly, his sister too keeps flying, only that she's flying away from having to deal with her problems.
While movies about dysfunctional families are becoming redundant these days (though they haven't tired me), 'Birds Of America' feels refreshing. It's a funny, at times hilariously outrageous, heartwarming, whimsical, poetic and humane little film. While these siblings, who have grown up without stable parents, have their own problems, their unconditional love for one another is strong and genuine it is sensitively demonstrated by the actors with compassion. They do feel like a real family.
Friedman's writing is superb as the dialogues are authentic, symbolic and humorous and the poetry of the story comes across very well. The characters are very real with a gentle touch of humour. Lucas's direction is equally good as he stays focused on the main story, telling it with sincerity and clarity. In addition, Yaron Orbach's playful cinematography and Ahrin Mishan's whimsical score are excellent and they beautifully enhance the mood. Eric Kissack's editing is crisp. It is a very short film but it's rounded up well.
The performances are outstanding. It was great to see Matthew Perry in a serious role (with a comic touch). He just proves what a versatile actor he is and his effective portrayal comes across as very genuine. Lauren Graham is just as fantastic as the desperate housewife desperate to have kids with the husband she loves. Ben Foster is brilliantly restrained and very likable. He does not have to rely on overt gimmicks to draw laughter. Ginnifer Goodwin too is excellent as the promiscuous, carefree and addictive sister Ida. Hilary Swank springs a pleasant surprise as the pompous 'perfect' neighbour. It's a role that any star of her caliber would turn down without second thought and it's not a role that one would expect an accomplished actress to play but Swank does a fine job nonetheless and it was great to see her as part of an already magnificent cast.
It's a light hearted film and it's basically about lightening up and not to take every single thing in life so seriously but at the same time to respect other's boundaries. To quote a friend, 'it's about the invisible boundaries of social norms: both breaking and respecting them and it's about the importance of loving and respecting people who care for you (family and real friends) versus sucking up to others only because they might give you a promotion or a 'better' social status'.
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