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dir-scr Kenneth Lonergan
prd Gary Gilbert, Sydney Pollack, Scott Rudin
with Anna Paquin, J Smith-Cameron, Jean Reno, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Mark Ruffalo, Jeannie Berlin, Kieran Culkin, Kenneth Lonergan, John Gallagher Jr, Cyrus Hernstadt
release US 30.Sep.11, UK 2.Dec.11
11/US Fox 2h30
Bending the truth: Smith-Cameron and Paquin
Spring and Fall, to a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1880
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Shot in 2005, Lonergan's film spent six years in legal and editorial limbo. It may be overlong, but it's a powerfully involving exploration of guilt and self-discovery. It's also packed with astonishingly complex characters and situations.
Lisa (Paquin) is a Manhattan teen living with her single mother Joan (Smith-Cameron), an actress starring in her breakout stage role while seeing a new man (Reno). One day Lisa distracts a bus driver (Ruffalo), who hits a woman (Janney) in the street, an accident that sends Lisa into a spiral of sublimated guilt, as she lashes out in different ways at a nice classmate (Gallagher), her teachers (Damon and Broderick) and mostly her mother. And she doesn't stop there, meddling in people's lives in her effort to achieve a sense of justice.
Lisa's real problem is that she hasn't yet developed an adult sense of isolation and interdependence. So this is actually an intricate coming-of-age movie, even though it doesn't feel like one. We watch in horrified recognition as we see ourselves in every character, even as each one goes through moments in which they are hugely unlikeable, reacting badly and/or doing things that are intensely selfish.
Clearly cut down from a much longer version, subplots come and go suddenly, leaving a lot to the imagination. But this askance structure works in the film's favour, as does the lengthly running time, which lets us get lost in each situation as well as the overarching themes. We never have a clue what anyone is going to say or do next, scenes turn suddenly in unexpected directions, and even Lonergan's flashy camera moves add to the dizzying effect. Indeed, the title refers to a 19th century poem.
The entire cast is excellent. This is perhaps Paquin's strongest performance yet. She holds our attention - and affection - even after Lisa has lost our sympathy. Smith-Cameron is terrific as a woman desperate to understand her daughter, realising perhaps too late that both of them are being equally narrow-minded. And Berlin has the other notable role as a woman pulled into Lisa's plan before revealing her own limits. This is a rich, moving, deeply provocative film that doesn't deserve to be remembered for its production troubles. Let it speak for itself.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
|Kallie Wilbourn, Las Vegas, New Mexico: "This movie and every character in it were so irritating, so natural and real, and life itself presented as the messy kaleidoscope it is. I really liked the film because there was no attempt to present an idealized character or glorify anything or anyone a la Spielberg -- which attempt we should all suspect and be utterly sick of, in my opinion. All the actors were brilliant, and I will be on the lookout for films by Lonergan. Yes, the film could use some editing but who cares. Just watch it without expecting a neat, punchy narrative. Every scene includes something of value, and the ending felt completely natural." (30.Jan.13)
© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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