Saturday, March 7, 2015


Directed By: Todd Field 
Written By: Todd Field & Robert Festinger 
Based On The Short Story “Killings” By: Andre Dubus 
Cinematography By: Antonio Calvache 
Editor: Frank Reynolds 

Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl, William Mapother, Ceila Weston, Karen Allen

In idyllic Mid-Coast Maine, the Fowler family's only son Frank comes home from his freshman year at college for summer vacation. His mother Ruth, the school choir director, is unhappy with Frank dating soon-to-be divorced mother Natalie who is several years his senior, but Frank's father Matt, the town doctor, doesn't see a problem. While Frank considers holding off his future for Natalie, her jilted husband causes them all problems until an unthinkable tragedy shakes the community to its very core.

Director Todd field not only with this film, but also his other film LITTLE CHILDREN. Shows a way to humanize characters that can easily fall into one note in portrayal and presentation. He makes the characters not only three dimensional but real and shocking in behavior. He is not afraid to use silence to the advantage of the story and to build what seems like endless tension.

He feels obviously inspired by Stanley Kubrick in deciding never to judge his characters presenting them more matter of factly. His meticulous camera movements and angles. A shot is never wasted. He's not afraid to let a scene lay there and barely move the camera until it's needed to give the most impact.

The film is one giant slow burn throughout as it starts off ideal and slowly becomes not only a tragedy, but a revenge take that truly asks questions of the situations you commonly find in vigilante films. Only here more dramatically rather then action driven. Like if you go through with it will you become as tainted and even as the person who committed the crime against you. In a much more human way as the film could have easily become a empty thriller.

The film feels rich with life and culture. It's not only the filmmaking that makes this film good. It's he performances that feel lived in and natural and then become powerful.

Tom Wilkinson starts off the movie as strong and confident and as the movie moves forward he goes through sorrow, guilt, emptiness, despair, anger, weakness and makes each emotion true and relatable. He has always been a underrated solid actor. This might be one of his best performances as it is the rare leading role in which he is allowed to shine. Here he is scarily human. It makes one wonder if he had a role like Bill Murray's in the film ST. VINCENT would he do the role justice or would it be a case of extreme stunt casting?

The guilt he displays when proud that his son got into a fight and was a scrapper in his first run-in with his girlfriends ex and though she is older how impressed he is that she is so sexy and downright flirtatious she is with him.

I believe he can finally be forgiven for taking roles like in the Martin Lawrence comedy BLACK KNIGHT (which coincidently came out in the same year as this film) which shows his notoriety before this role compared to after He is slept on a lot as an actor. He seems to take his talent for granted to a degree, but with performances like these proves he is prepared to handle any role he is handed with nuances. It's interesting that in the same year he made this he appeared in the Martin Lawrence Comedy BLACK KNIGHT. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum.

Marisa Tomei is feisty and sexy in her role. Her character is at the center of the tragedy. Her guilt truly is sorrowful as she doesn't mean to be the accidental femme fatale. As she is a character who can never be forgiven or relieved even though she is not guilty and tries to do the right thing. Yet is stuck in the situation involuntarily.

Even though she almost disappears halfway through the movie. This was Marisa Tomei's major comeback and proved that Oscar she got for MY COUSIN VINYY was no fluke. She had the foods. She just needed someone to take a chance on her, to give her a worthwhile character to play and she would be sure not to disappoint and she doesn't.

Sissy Spacek is wonderful never seen her play such a strong willed character before. She is always an actress who comes out of nowhere. She always seems to stay away from making big movies. Then she comes back and hits it out of the park with her performances. She makes choices you wouldn't expect. Her character here is almost like Lady Macbeth, but more pushed into the role out of her love for her child. Then just having that instinct. Miss Spacek has always had a weird effect on me as an audience member when she acts. It feels like that teacher at school who is strict, but if you saw her at a store or bumped into her on the street. You are shocked she is normal and had a real life outside of school. she seems one way but are shocked when she lets you see her other side. She lets you see behind the curtain. I hope that all makes sense to you dear readers. Again Sissy Spacek is marvelous in this film. She players realistic, not so nice character. Who you can understand where her pain is coming from as she shuts down and expresses nothing but calm and anger. She does most of her acting physically and through facial expressions then dialogue and presents a master class in acting 101.

The film feels like a modern Shakespeare tragedy. Full of acts of violence, emotion, deep characters, but also a naturalism that is felt throughout every scene.

The film is especially affecting in it's final act those last scenes. Where for all the thrills and actions there is still an emptiness these actions were supposed to be change things make a fulfillment, restore order. In the end Nothing really changes if anything, it only adds to the situation. Not spelling it out, but skip if you haven't seen it as it will affect your viewing of it. Sissy Spacek decorated the house in which her character lives.

While masquerading as a natural hard hitting drama in it's heart lurks a revenge film that will affect the small close knit community and the participants to the core that will rock and haunt them for the rest of their lives.

At first the film seems simple cut and dry but then it draws you in so hat you are so caught up with he characters you will follow the film and it's story wherever it goes. It's the point that everything is handled so matter of factly and detailed. Not sensationalized or taken over the top (like in the film EYE FOR AN EYE) that makes me appreciate the film all the more.

There were 15 takes of Sissy Spacek slapping Marisa Tomei. The final version of the film used the first take.

The film at first seems like it could almost be about the parents disapproval of he relationship their son has with this older woman then once it takes a turn. The shock and ripples it leaves throughout the film.

The words of Father McCasslin at the burial are the last five lines from Chapter 25, "Death", in "The Prophet" by Kahil Gibran. The poems quoted during Willis Grinnel's two poker parties are William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 's "My Lost Youth", respectively.

This is a bleak film of loss. That is initialized by an act of senseless violence.

The natural atmosphere of the community is refreshing and the restraint used in the film-making when it is obvious at many points. It could have gone overboard with style and momentum. Then made to feel like it was going off track. As we watch everyone cope with the tragedy especially when an injustice happens.

It would have been nice to see what director Todd Field could have done with the film CHOKE. Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, I know different type of material, but it fits within the suburban community this secret underground of sin.

A scene cut from the final version shows Ruth and Matt watching the film Barry Lyndon at The Strand Theater in Rockland, Maine on the night of their wedding anniversary. Ruth tells her son Frank "It was the first film your father and I ever saw together." This was intended by director Todd Field as an homage to Stanley Kubrick, whom Field had worked with on Eyes Wide Shut

This is a definite addition to the film library. I only warn you be prepared for the material in this film before you watch it.

I will admit the film takes it's time to get to where it's going, but when it gets there a few times. It is explosive.

Definitely an addition to the home library

Grade: A

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