Movie Journal: The Woodsman

At turns disturbing and then hopeful, The Woodsman is a powerful film that never descends into melodrama. Kevin Bacon gives a typically strong performance, as does co-star and real-life wife Kyra Sedgwick as his co-worker and eventual girlfriend.

Bacon plays Walter, a convicted child molester just released on parole and trying to become, in his words, normal. He gets a job at a lumber yard where he worked years before, begins a relationship with Sedgwick’s Vicki and works on overcoming his criminal urges. It’s a tough road and he’s tempted more than once, almost falling back into his old behavior despite knowing it will land him back in prison – this time for life.

The Woodsman has a strong script and the direction seems geared toward letting Bacon take the reigns and do his work. He spends much of the film thousand-yard-glaring out the window of his apartment or the bus he sometimes takes to work. When not contemplating his life Walter meets up with his brother-in-law, played by Benjamin Bratt, the only member of his family still speaking to him.

The way Walter and Vicki find each other, not just physically but emotionally, and the issues they work through to get to a place of intimacy is truly believable. There are no cliches here, no “Well, we’ll just ignore the unpleasantness for the sake of the plot” scenes. Vicki knows Walter’s story and comes to grips with it on her own terms, ultimately deciding that the good she sees in him and the potential to help him move on is worth her emotional investment.

I have to say, though, that I’m in the middle of a very fucked-up film festival. First Kinsey, then The Woodsman, and currently I’m halfway through Vera Drake (review coming tomorrow). Didn’t really think through this period when building my Netflix queue.

Movie Journal: Kinsey

How good an actor is Liam Neeson when he’s given decent material to work with. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of actor who can overcome and expand upon a script’s limitations but when the character is there on the page he’s very good at conveying it to the audience. That’s not to say I didn’t have problems with Kinsey, but let’s focus on the positives first.

The main positives are the performances, by Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard and others. Each one is rock solid. The problem is that all these characters wind up in essentially the same place as when we met them. There’s very little arc to any of them. The experiences each goes through doesn’t seem to change their character or relationships much, despite infidelity, betrayal and controversy stemming from public scrutiny.

The two characters that buck this trend are John Lithgow’s as Neeson’s father and Oliver Platt as the president of Indiana University, where Kinsey was on staff. Platt and Lithgow really do grow as characters instead of remaining static as so many of the rest do. Lithgow grows more bitter and mean, Platt more pragmatic and less willing to fight for ideals he still deep down believes in.

It’s a beautifully shot film for what is a character drama and well directed. I just would have liked more character growth. Overall, though, Kinsey is pretty good.

Movie Marketing Madness: Dark Water

dark-water-posterThis looks like a crappy psuedo-horror flick designed to capitalize on the success of movies like The Ring by putting a young child in danger. Her single mother then has to figure out what the fuck is going on while… oh who cares.

The Poster

Whatever my feelings are about the movie itself, you’ll never get an argument from my when you put Jennifer Connelly on a poster. Both the theatrical and the teaser poster are creepy in a monochromatic sort of way. The teaser doesn’t really work for me because, quite frankly, it doesn’t show Connelly or give much guidance as to the plot of the flick. The theatrical version is only slightly better since it sets the scene and hints a bit more at the mood.

The Trailer

Really, really lame. Sorry, but it just doesn’t work for me. You will never sell me on a movie solely by putting kids in harms way. John C. Reilly and Pete Postlethwaite make brief appearances here as alternately spooky/kindly residents of the building Connelly and her daughter move into but they’re not given much to do. Can’t think this was anything other than a paycheck picture for either of them. There’s lots of poor lighting and leaky plumbing but that’s about it.

The Website

The site Disney created for this flick has a good premise: Use the building the movie takes place in as a navigational tool for the content. Unfortunately it’s executed in a way that only die-hard gamers will appreciate since you have to collect tools and find their use in order to get anywhere. If you hit “About The Film” at the top you get a standard navigation menu that works much better if your goal is to find out about the movie.

The usual content areas are all accounted for. There’s a rather slim Photo Gallery, a Video section containing two TV spots and the trailer (which also plays when you first hit the site), a Synopsis and Cast and Crew bios/filmos. Production Notes is labeled as “coming soon.” The movie opens tomorrow, Eisner. If not now, when?

Overall

This is aimed squarely at those who enjoyed The Ring, The Grudge and other movies like that. Mom must search for kid who has fallen victim to something spooky. This seems like the kind of story Stephen King could have told well in his heyday but the execution of this movie, based on the marketing materials, seems shoddy. I imagine there were lots of rewrites here. Unless you’re a fan of the modern horror/thriller genre I don’t see much in this campaign that will attract you to it.