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Review: Take Shelter (Fantastic Fest)

Sep. 27, 2011by: Mike Sampson

PLOT: An Ohio man struggles with money, work and his young daughter's deafness. As his stress mounts, he beings to have increasingly vivid nightmares that seem to be warning him of an impending disaster. Is he simply losing his mind or actually prescient of some kind of apocalypse?

REVIEW: Wow, who know that losing your mind could be so boring. TAKE SHELTER is a film that features a crackling performance by Michael Shannon but thoroughly wastes it in an overlong, half-cooked meditation on mental instability.

We're introduced to Shannon's Curtis as a hard-working, small town guy with a beautiful wife (Jessica Chastain). They're struggling with money - she sells needlework on the side, while he struggles working machinery at a sand company - and dealing with their daughter's hearing impairment. But despite at all, they appear to be a pretty rosy little family. They're saving for a beach vacation in North Carolina! But the stress seems to be getting to Curtis, the son of a paranoid schizophrenic mother and after a series of intense dreams that leave his drenched in sweat and urine, he wonders if he's suffering the same fate as his mother.

The dreams grow with intensity and as they begin to involve people close to him - his best friend, the family dog and, eventually, his wife - his paranoia increases and he makes a series of irrational decisions to deal with the subject of his dreams - a brutal storm with an oil-like rain.

The descent into madness has made for some entertaining movies - both scary (THE SHINING) and dramatic (A BEAUTIFUL MIND) - but TAKE SHELTER isn't one of them. If the film is two hours long (and it is), it drags along at such a sluggish pace it feels almost twice that. Maybe the film is a meta attempt at filmmaking where the idea is to make the audience feel like they're going to lose their mind too?

The film is building to an eventual climax we're aware of almost immediately - is he insane or not insane - and the tedious lengths it takes to get to that inevitability is excruciating so that when it finally arrives, it's hard to care. For what it's worth, the ending is botched badly and undermines everything that happened prior, but in truth, any alternate ending - short of aliens from Mars coming down and taking Curtis aboard the mothership - would've likely failed just as badly.

What's truly is a shame is that Shannon gives a remarkable performance as a man on the edge of sanity. It bubbles under the surface until he finally snaps under the accusing eyes of his tight-knit community as they become aware of his paranoia. It's a powerful scene; very Oscar moment! but still works. If only it had come about thirty minutes sooner. Shannon's rage and confusion and embarrassment flow underneath his skin until the considerable bags under his eyes tremor with fervor.

Not to be outdone is Chastain, a seemingly omnipresent figure at the movies this year. A lesser actress may not have been able to stand alongside Shannon in this film but Chastain pulls it off as she struggles to understand how and why her family is falling apart (yet never alienating her husband and always shielding their daughter).

But alas, a movie is more than just the sum of its parts. Good performances alone do not a good movie make. If you like checking out a movie to see what actors people will be buzzing about come Oscar time, then perhaps TAKE SHELTER is for you. But if you crave an entertaining and fulfilling story, you'll be let down.

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:57AM on 09/28/2011
Dude, get this Sampson character outa here.
Dude, get this Sampson character outa here.
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10:04PM on 09/29/2011
Where can I go?
Where can I go?
+5
6:46PM on 09/27/2011
That's too bad, but I do remember Chris giving this a great review and I am intrigued by the plot, so I will probably see it. I think the definition of sluggish varies, so I guess I shouldn't necessarily trust any one opinion.
That's too bad, but I do remember Chris giving this a great review and I am intrigued by the plot, so I will probably see it. I think the definition of sluggish varies, so I guess I shouldn't necessarily trust any one opinion.
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5:49PM on 09/27/2011
Thoroughly disagree with this review, it is my favorite of the year and favorite of the decade so far.
Thoroughly disagree with this review, it is my favorite of the year and favorite of the decade so far.
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11:03AM on 09/27/2011

bumbray

I definitely trust bumbray over sampson everyday of the week. i haven't read one bumbray review that wasn't exactly right.
I definitely trust bumbray over sampson everyday of the week. i haven't read one bumbray review that wasn't exactly right.
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10:04PM on 09/29/2011
Bumbray reviews like 10x as many movies as I do! But seriously, when have I led you wrong? What was something I recommended that you hated or hated that you loved?
Bumbray reviews like 10x as many movies as I do! But seriously, when have I led you wrong? What was something I recommended that you hated or hated that you loved?
10:58AM on 09/27/2011
Is it so boring that it made you post the same picture twice? :P
Seeing this on Thursday, I still can't wait!
Is it so boring that it made you post the same picture twice? :P
Seeing this on Thursday, I still can't wait!
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10:16AM on 09/27/2011

hmm.

a lot of other film critics are praising this movie, but i trust you guys more. Its weird cause i really want to see this and now i'm more skeptical. I'll probably wait to see it until award season goes into full swing. Now i'm torn on wanting to see it.
a lot of other film critics are praising this movie, but i trust you guys more. Its weird cause i really want to see this and now i'm more skeptical. I'll probably wait to see it until award season goes into full swing. Now i'm torn on wanting to see it.
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10:19AM on 09/27/2011
Please don't hesitate to see this because of this review. Livid was given a poor review by JoBlo as well and it's also fantastic (while You're Next is mediocre and got a 9/10). Seek out some other reviews before swearing this off.
Please don't hesitate to see this because of this review. Livid was given a poor review by JoBlo as well and it's also fantastic (while You're Next is mediocre and got a 9/10). Seek out some other reviews before swearing this off.
+13
10:08AM on 09/27/2011

GASP!

Mike- I love ya, but I gotta disagree. I really loved this movie. One of my favorites of the year. I'm a big fan of Jeff Nichols. SHOTGUN STORIES is a real gem, and this is a huge step up. He definitely has a more "deliberate" style, but I like it. Ah well, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks!
Mike- I love ya, but I gotta disagree. I really loved this movie. One of my favorites of the year. I'm a big fan of Jeff Nichols. SHOTGUN STORIES is a real gem, and this is a huge step up. He definitely has a more "deliberate" style, but I like it. Ah well, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks!
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10:05AM on 09/27/2011

Saw this at TIFF...

And it was easily one of the best films I've seen all year. The performances were incredible and the script was sobering and fat-free. The cinematography was classic and carried no flare, but that's to be expected with this type of film. If you're craving an entertaining, fulfilling story, you'll NOT be let down...but if you're craving an action packed disaster film (which it seems like the reviewer was), you likely will.
And it was easily one of the best films I've seen all year. The performances were incredible and the script was sobering and fat-free. The cinematography was classic and carried no flare, but that's to be expected with this type of film. If you're craving an entertaining, fulfilling story, you'll NOT be let down...but if you're craving an action packed disaster film (which it seems like the reviewer was), you likely will.
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9:08AM on 09/27/2011
Pity, I'd been anticipating this since Bumbray reviewed it at Sundance.
Pity, I'd been anticipating this since Bumbray reviewed it at Sundance.
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