review by Jon
Sarah Pierce is struggling to find herself. She has a successful
husband, a big house and a young girl that she takes to the
park. But no matter what she does, she can’t seem to
fit in with the other moms within the town. Maybe she really
doesn’t want to. Enter Brad Adamson. The moms at the
park call him the prom king. He’s a dad also trying to
find his self worth. He’s “studying” to become
a lawyer although he failed the bar twice already. He has a
wife that supports him in every sense of the word, but for
some reason that’s just not enough. When these two drifting
souls come together, maybe they’ll both find whatever
intangible thing it is that they’re looking for.
This is one of the very few movies that I saw without any
prior knowledge of the plot or even the general themes involved.
It may have been better that I didn’t, because I was
completely enthralled almost instantly. As soon as I heard
that smoky, deep-voiced narrator (Will Lyman, “Frontline”)
begin his poetic and vivid descriptions, I knew this movie
was going to be something special. Thousands of movies have
used narration before, but few so effectively. This is the
best example of how voice-over can lend fascinating novelization
to a plot without ever taking away from the cinematic appeal.
You still feel like you’re watching a movie – it’s
just a great one with an otherworldly presence taking you deeper
into all the emotional questions and games that the outstanding
performances could never truly provide. Even with the narrator,
not everything is explained to you.
In fact, I found myself wanting more narration. It would have
been great to see some of the more minor characters get that
special treatment. But ultimately it isn’t needed and
probably would have been over doing it if it was in there.
I also wanted to see more of Sarah’s husband. We’re
only offered a brief glimpse into his own fascinating array
of subtle quirks and inner problems. Honestly, I just wanted
to know more about all of their lives. There’s so much
depth to be found within all of the characters, it’s
impossible to touch on it all within the confines of the very
quick-moving 130-minute running time.
Simply put, the film is an unassuming cinematic gem that houses
a masterful literary work of art. The endearing and intriguing
characters are unusual enough to keep your interest while never
becoming cartoons. The non-flashy, yet effective camerawork
sets the perfect backdrop both physically and psychologically.
The film is draped in blacks; whether it’s the mise-en-scene
or the snippets of pure black placed in between certain shots
the effect is visceral. Yet somehow the stunning photography
is still able to give off the contrasting feeling of an idyllic
1950s suburban paradise.
The key point to take away is that nothing is as it seems.
The amazing script, co-written by director Todd Field (“In
the Bedroom”) and Tom Perrotta (based off his novel)
delves deep into not only the characters’ feelings about
each other, but also about your feelings about them. It forces
you to think about perspective. Look out for the line “We’re
all miracles,” and consider the source of the message
and its recipient. You’ll get the idea. The movie is
at different times funny, heartfelt, heart-breaking, melodramatic,
mysterious, tense and always incredible. The insane build up
to the climax of this picture got me more worked up than any
other film this year. It is nothing short of incredible and
I simply can’t recommend it highly enough.
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