Review Date: January 21, 2002
Director: Todd Field
Writer: Todd Field and Andre Dubus
Producers: Todd Field, Ross Katz, Graham Leader
Tom Wilkinson as Matt Fowler
Sissy Spacek as Ruth Fowler
Marisa Tomei as Natalie Strout
Yes, I understand that it's a character study. Yes, I understand that the whole film is more about the gentle pokes in the yarn, than the rips in the sheet, but jeezus people...how about keeping me in the ballgame with some emotional attachment to the characters or interest in the basic storyline? I mean, there wasn't one thing that I saw in this movie that I haven't seen in many other films, including the extremely obvious progression of the plot, and most especially the ending, which I saw coming miles away (my guess is that this wasn't supposed to be much of a surprise since clues are thrown in your face like nobody's business throughout!) So if I already know what's going to happen, if the over-the-top symbolism of a man cutting his finger while fishing and later unwrapping the bandage once he's fulfilled his mission (guess what...the booboo's healed!!) isn't compelling and if the actors spend most of their time in silence...uuuuhh, what exactly is so special about the film? Now maybe this is a whole "adult" thing which I clearly don't get, but I honestly don't see what the hoopla is all about this movie.
As for Sissy Spacey, she certainly does a decent job in her role but...Best Actress of the Year?? (according to the Hollywood Foreign Press). I don't get that either. She was okay but nothing spectacular. It was mostly about Tom Wilkinson's character and he comes through gangbusters. Which brings me to the few items that I did like about the film. I obviously enjoyed the performances (Nick Stahl and William Mapother (Tom Cruise's cousin!) also), appreciated some of the symbolism used to convey the sense of grief, the pent-up frustrations and the general direction of the film and quite liked some of the visual choices made by the director, especially nearing the end, where he really gives you that stronger sense of urgency. But overall, the movie is a pretty basic and predictable tale told in a very sluggish manner via characters for whom I never really felt much emotion. Does this make for a good movie? Not to me. In fact, being as it's based on a short story, I could see how this type of material, being symbolic, quiet and mostly internalized, would work better on the printed page. Here, it just sits on the screen, obvious as to its intentions, weak as to its emotional investments and very average, as to its overall package. Easily one of the more overrated films of the year. BTW, writer/director Todd Field was the piano player in Stanley Kubrick's last opus, EYES WIDE SHUT. You make any other connection you want from that piece of info because I ain't touching it (remember that piano chime...ding-ding-ding!).