There are dysfunctional families... and then there are the Conways. After a family tragedy, 15-year-old Billy Conway has become the de facto glue between his bitter mom, distant brother, ...
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There are dysfunctional families... and then there are the Conways. After a family tragedy, 15-year-old Billy Conway has become the de facto glue between his bitter mom, distant brother, and stoic dad. But when Billy starts to act out, everything changes for him and his family. Written by
Showcase of solid characterization, screen writing and performances
Accidents Happen Sydney Film Festival, June 2009 I was sold on this film by a description of Geena Davis who "shines as the screwball mother". The SFF program seemed to promise a screwball family comedy, with Davis' fearlessness in performance carrying the required bravado. So I was surprised when the opening sequence, a slow-motion shot of a playing child interrupted by an elderly neighbour accidentally barbecuing himself, suggested another tone was in the offing: a coming-of-age black comedy. That combination works well here.
To labour the labeling a little, ladling on a portmanteau, ACCIDENTS HAPPEN is a 'dramedy'. It's a realistic story of an early 80s suburban family unit fractured by an auto accident. The emotional weight of their tragedy squeezes absurdity out of the cracks in their stasis. Gloria Conway (Davis) turns her rapid-fire wit to lashing her 'useless' ex-husband but that is clearly a losing game for her as she is not much more on top of her grief for their lost children than he is.
The relationship between surviving but bereft younger son Billy and his ballsy mother is the meat of the film. They present a remarkably compelling take on an interdependent relationship. They made me really care that they would work it out, and a refreshing change from the common film stereotype of merely alienated teens.
The film overall is a showcase of great characterization through screen writing and performances, not just from the poised teen-aged leads but also minor characters like the barbecue-induced widow Mrs Smolensky. She steps startlingly out of being a background character in the payoff scene at the film's end.
That final sequence also left me backpedaling on conclusions I leapt to earlier about the film's symbolism. Up until that point, the crucial role of a bowling ball in the plot lent itself to symbolism of emotional baggage, a crushing burden to carry and destructively out of control when neglected. That ball's ultimate destination revealed over the end-credits indicates the authors either didn't have that in mind, or were pointing us to some other significance entirely. Comments here suggesting what that significance might be are very welcome.
Originally posted at http://moviebookchats.posterous.com/movie-review-accidents-happen
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