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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Marc Meyers
scr Oren Moverman
prd Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Oren Moverman, Bert Marcus, Matthew Stillman
with Liev Schreiber, Marisa Tomei, Peter Sarsgaard, Maya Hawke, Alex Wolff, Betty Gabriel, Fred Hechinger, Aasif Mandvi, Paul Sparks, John Ventimiglia, Dominic Colon, James Waterston
release US 20.Mar.20
TORONTO FILM FEST
There's a churning underlying tension to this drama about a tense collision between two very different families. A remake of the 2014 Italian drama, the story's snaky structure, cycling back to see events through varying perspectives, adds textures to each rather loathsome character. But the themes become rather murky as the plot begins to feel both constructed and contrived, piling a range of transgressions on top of each other.
Expecting a child with his second wife Ronnie (Gabriel), estate agent Drew (Schreiber) secretly buys into a risky fund managed by high-powered Quint (Sarsgaard). He and his glamorous ex-actress wife Carrie (Tomei) have a teen son, Jamie (Hechinger), who's seeing Drew's daughter Shannon (Hawke). Then the investment goes bad, which puts Drew on the ropes because he borrowed the cash on a lie. Meanwhile, Jamie and Shannon are implicated in a fatal hit-and-run accident after a drunken party. But are they protecting local problem teen Ian (Wolff)?
By shifting the point of view, writer Moverman adds complexity to each character, even if no one is sympathetic. Various revelations create intriguingly shifting loyalties, as everyone is lying about something. Quint is a callous jerk, Drew is impulsive and irresponsible, Carrie is arrogantly privileged, Shannon knows Jamie is gay and dives into romance with Ian. The interaction between these people is twisty and sharply well written and played, even when it veers off-topic. But then, neither the class issues nor the financial angle ever properly come into play.
The actors stir flashes of personality into these disparate characters. The standout is Wolff, who shines as the story's bad boy, using humour and understated charisma to make it believable that Shannon would be smitten. Hawke is also excellent in the only emotionally resonant role, a young woman grappling with several serious issues. By contrast, the excellent Schreiber, Tomei and Sarsgaard have their characters' personal problems to play with, although the script never properly addresses them.
The swirl of events and relationships is intriguing and sometimes connects on a deeper level. But the cycling perspective makes it tricky to get involved in the moral and ethical issues involved. And because the screenplay gets into so many viewpoints, the way things develops begins to feel melodramatic, especially since the plot takes some shocking turns that are oddly under-explained. So while it doesn't quite pack the intended punch, the film is still strikingly well-made with several powerful moments along the way.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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