WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Based on many of the actual real life events from writer/director Jim Sheridan's own family life moving to the United States, this film joins the Irish foursome as they move to New York City and into Hell's Kitchen (both literally and figuratively). The loving couple have just lost their son to an accident, but must go on with their lives, particularly since they still have two cute daughters to raise. The joy, sadness and ups-and-downs of a typical immigrant family ensues.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
With three Oscar nominations in tow and plenty of end of the year top 10 lists (150-- the back cover of this disc reminds us), I went into IN AMERICA expecting a somewhat depressing and "been there, done that" tale of the working family attempting to make a place for themselves in the world. What I got instead was an effortless drama that successfully managed to tell a heartwarming, insightful and surprisingly, "light" story of a group of human beings who are just trying to get by in life, much like many of us out there. I was touched by this film because I cared about its characters from the start and with both the performances from the actors and their unfortunate circumstance, felt immediately pulled in to their sordid affair and wished them nothing but the best as they went from good to bad to worse to good again and so forth.
Kudos also go out to Djimon Hounsou, whose character managed to bring some zest and outward emotion to the film. Considine was also solid, but unfortunately had the unenviable task of portraying a man whose emotions are completely shut down and who in turn, kept me at arm's length. That said, when Considine's character finally came full-circle, there was no bigger tear-fountain in the room than myself. Morton was also great as usual, and the kids -- who happen to be sisters in real life -- adorable and impressively effective here, particularly Sarah Bolger, who I don't believe received enough praise for her performance.
Sheridan should also be applauded for keeping the film going at a nice pace, sprinkling it with many lighter moments, as well as one of the more suspenseful scenes from any movie last year (when Considine is attempting to win the E.T. doll for his daughter...I was at the edge of my seat), a nice soundtrack and a decent amount of shots of Americana, not overdone in any way either (as it turns out, America is actually still one of the only countries in the world which does allow one to dream and achieve those dreams if they put their mind to it) I don't foresee many people disliking this film in any way, since it plays very easily, features true characters to whom most anyone with life experience can relate and offers no easy solutions, but a well-rounded foundation from which anyone might be able to draw their own life lessons.
The main extra is a full-length commentary track by writer/director Jim Sheridan (he actually co-wrote the script with his real-life daughters Naomi and Kirsten) who manages to keep talking at a breakneck pace, offering tons of correlations between the film's events and the actual facts from his life. Surprisingly, many of the scenes and details from the movie were taken directly from his own life, including the infamous "E.T. doll scene", the carrying of the air conditioner through the New York streets, as well as the film's central tragedy about a loved one accidentally dying after falling down the stairs and getting a tumor (in his life, it was actually his own brother, to which this occurred) Sheridan does get a little too philosophical at times, but he's unpretentious enough to call himself on it when he goes overboard. Great track for anyone who adored the film.
A 5-minute "Making Of" Featurette is also included on the disc, but it's not really all that good, with few insights or conversations with the central players. Everyone comes in for a minute or so, but it feels, looks and comes off like a fluff-piece. We also get 10 deleted scenes, including “The Original Ending”, most of which last about a minute or so, and would likely not have brought much else to the story. A handful of them provide more dimension to the reoccurring bum from the film, but I don’t think they were required. You can listen to all of them with or without director Sheridan’s commentary.
A solid dramatic motion picture which manages to bring both smiles and tears to one’s face, featuring some great performances and a nice ensemble family cast. The extras are also a nice addition, providing just enough insight about the film’s background, and direct relation to the director’s own life, to recommend this is a purchase for all serious movie-goers.