Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 3:12 pm 
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Slow movement doesn't keep this from being a magnificent movie

"In the Bedroom" is an exciting first film for Todd Field and an emotional powerhouse that's extra welcome at the end of a mediocre movie year. I understand the negative reactions some viewers have felt: the wait between premise and payoff is an excruciatingly slow one, and that slowness only makes real, noirish sense in the final climactic segment of the movie. Some very short scenes - typical of the movie's understated style - may puzzle some, as will the combination of restrained domestic drama with noir elements. Another quality that's unusual and may throw off viewers is the way the ultra respectable rubs elbows with the sleazy in character and event. Much is harder to read than usual and perhaps harder to read than it needs to be. But this is a very authentic piece of work and I loved the way powerful emotions were evoked in subtle ways. The tears are real. The anger is real. The cryptic language of New England life speaks volumes: the sense of place is terrific. The acting is remarkable. Nick Stahl is so sweet and understated you may think at first he's just a wimp, but you end be finding him a real nice guy, not a Hollywood mockup of one. Poor Nick: he's gotten two movie breaks this year only to get killed, slowly and brutally in Bully, quickly and tragically in Bedroom. William Mapother as the evil ex husband has an authentic tacky menace. Nothing in this movie is unprepared; everything fits, everything makes sense. Details are so effective that picking up a piece of glass can make you cry and removing a Band-Aid gives you a sense of recovery and restoration. Sissy Spacek is a panorama of repression and rage and she and Marisa Tomei give terrific performances, but it's Tom Wilkinson as Matt Fowler who's the central and most amazing character: I've rarely seen an actor take his character through so many and revolutionary, slowly nuanced changes within a single movie. Beware the seeming ordinariness of this story. It's not ordinary at all. It hasn't any easy payoff. It leaves us with doubts. I wish Field had tightened up the editing in the middle, but I'm damned happy with what he's given us. This is a terrific, rich, heartfelt movie.

December 25, 2001

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