A dispossessed, violent man's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends to the level of a cave dweller as he falls deeper into crime and degradation.
Tim Blake Nelson
The original book upon which the movie is based is told from the perspective of 15 different characters over 59 chapters. Split screens are used throughout much of the movie and this is designed to reflect the different perspectives of the characters. See more »
In the dream sequence, when Vardaman stabs the dead catfish with a knife, a printed food label or price tag is sticking out from under the fish. See more »
My father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead for a long time.
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Doesn't work; if you haven't read the book, it'll probably seem incomprehensible
I remember, when this debuted at Cannes, a tweet from some critic which basically said "I can't wait to read the book so I can figure out what the Hell it was I just watched!" Now, I have read the book (around 13 years ago), but, man, does this ever seem absolutely impenetrable to anyone who hasn't. That doesn't necessarily effect me any as a viewer, but it should be noted. Unfortunately, even as a big fan of the book, this film really doesn't work very well. It's a valiant attempt, I think, but a failure nonetheless. Franco, clearly an amateur (though not without talent), utilizes split screens to tell his story. I can understand why, but it's just too busy. Tim Blake Nelson, who plays Anse, the patriarch of the Bundren clan, is incomprehensible. Again, I can understand why (the text clearly states that he is toothless), but he didn't need to be so impossible to understand (again, someone who is unfamiliar with the book will be utterly lost). Nelson really was a great choice to play Anse, so it's really unfortunate his performance goes down the toilet like this. The casting of the rest of the Bundrens isn't that great, either. Franco is easily the standout as Darl, but Jim Parrack and Logan Marshall-Green as Cash and Jewel respectively pretty much get lost because of their bland performances. Brady Permenter as Vardaman is a poor child actor. Ahna O'Reilly is not a bad actress, but she's 10 years older than the character of Dewey Dell, which is incredibly noticeable. Finally, there's Beth Grant (who still doubts your commitment to Sparkle Motion) as Addie. She's quite good, but, of course, dead for most of the movie. Franco also seems to miss the semi-comic tone of the novel, making it almost fully a tragedy. I mean, that final bit is kind of hilarious, but Franco doesn't play it as such. It just comes off as weird.
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