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RackOutOfFocus

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239 out of 302 people found the following review useful:
Very strong movie with difficult content, 26 April 2005
10/10

I had high hopes for this film, since I have been a big fan of the novel on which it is based. The film exceeded my expectations in every way. Although quite faithful to the book (with many lines of dialogue and narration moving straight from Scott Heim's poetic prose), the movie has more drive and focus and pulls you so far into the troubled characters. Credit for the movie's strength goes all around -- director Araki put his mark on the story without taking it over. He got uniformily good performances (and somehow managed to direct scenes that any reader of the book would have thought completely unfilmable). Kansas has never looked better, or more sinister. The music is used well throughout.

And the acting is terrific. The two youngest leads, Chase Ellison and George Webster, were entirely convincing in their scenes (and I hope they feel proud of their work, seeing as how there's no way they'll get to see this movie until sometime next decade). Michelle Trachtenberg and Jeff Licon have fairly thankless roles, playing characters who are somewhat less clear and crucial in the film than their characters were in the book. But they don't sweat that, they just play what the screen play has them do, and they excel. Licon, especially, I think, although Trachtenberg is at a disadvantage, as her part is really pretty small.

And for me, at least, I think Mary-Lynn Rajskub, Brady Corbet, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt give about as good performances as one can give. Rajskub is so good that she gives the other actors in the film a space to react that is almost visible. Corbet is quiet and intense; if his performance sometimes lacks motivation, it is probably deliberate, as his character is struggling with identity and memory. And as for Gordon-Levitt, man, that guy can act. I really have a hard time thinking of any acting performance ever that has affected me as much.

It is a difficult story, although I felt it ends hopefully. Hopefully, you will agree. Content is very strong, although perhaps not NC-17 strong. Not for kids. Adults, if you can get past the 2nd scene, you can get through it, but there is a lot of outlawed sexuality and violence. It is painful to watch at times, but to me at least, that's because the actors and the director managed to immerse me in the characters.

19 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Better than I expected, 26 April 2005
7/10

I can't say I "liked" this film, yet I can say it was better than I expected. Actress/Director Asia Argento is both the best and worst thing about this film. As director, she presented a story that had flow and made sense, and made a couple of very good choices as to when to use surrealistic and stunt casting tricks in service of the story. She also got excellent performances out of the cast generally. Except...

as an actress, she kept taking me out of the scene. If your reaction is the same as mine, just tune her acting out and let the story unfold.

I would also say that JT Leroy, writer of the prose on which this film is based, was involved in the production. Via letter, he introduced the film at various film festivals. The claim that this is a true story, that this is "my life" that Leroy makes, tends to inoculate the film from a lot of criticism. How can anybody say "the ending wasn't much of an ending" or "the mom was really over-the-top" if the person who lived the story says the movie is "true". In other words, a movie has to have its own truth, whether the story it tells is true or not. And I guess I think this is "7" because for all it's flaws (Argento's acting, skips in time that leave characters undeveloped, and a general lack of roundness to the characters that really could have been fixed), the movie did seem to find it's own truth.

For that I credit director Argento, young actors Jimmy Bennett, Dylan Sprouse and Cole Sprouse (who knew the Sprouse twins could act? Very well done), sharp (if stereotypical) cameo turns by Peter Fonda, Winona Ryder, & Ornella Muti (whom I took to be Lena Olin). Also props to John Robinson, who played Jeremiah's teenaged uncle -- an underused character in the film. Except I can't say that because this movie is a "true story". See? That's frustrating.

Oh, the content is strong, this is not for kids, and a LOT of adults will need to quit watching at some point. But it is overall worth the effort, if you have a strong stomach and can control your rage at the awfulness of the life depicted.