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dir-scr Jason Reitman
prd Helen Estabrook, Lianne Halfon, Jason Reitman, Russell Smith
with Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Brooke Smith, Clark Gregg, James Van Der Beek, JK Simmons, Lucas Hedges, Tom Lipinski, Maika Monroe, Dylan Minnette, Tobey Maguire
release US 25.Dec.13, UK 21.Mar.14
Let's make some pie: Winslet, Brolin and Griffith
TORONTO FILM FEST
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While this drama starts off well, with another remarkably layered performance from Winslet and a growing sense of uneasy tension, it slowly transforms itself into a Nicholas Sparks-style sappy romance. To say this is frustrating is an understatement, and by the time we make it to a series of deeply schmalzy epilogues, we wonder what happened to the Reitman of Up in the Air or Young Adult.
In 1980s New Hampshire, the agoraphobic Adele (Winslet) is raising her teen son Henry (Griffith) on her own after her husband (Gregg) left. Then injured escaped convict Frank (Brolin) arrives needing a place to hide for the night. But the house needs fixing, Adele needs affection and Henry needs to learn how to throw a baseball, so Frank sticks around for the long weekend. They begin to coalesce into a family, so when a neighbour (Simmons) and a cop (Van Der Beek) start nosing around, they think about making a run for the border.
It's the earnest approach to the story that undermines the film. Where a darker, edgier tone is needed, Reitman settles for ripe peach-pie baking porn. Clearly the idea is that these three loners create an isolated, timeless sanctuary between them. But it feels more like they have been sucked into a glossy parallel universe. We keep expecting Channing Tatum to arrive on a fishing boat.
That said, the cast is terrific. Winslet has a wonderfully wounded quality that makes us want to help her. Even though her home is production-designed to within an inch of its life, we believe that life is a struggle for Adele. And her slow-burning interest in Brolin's complex but too-good anti-hero is fascinating, and beautifully played. Griffith is also excellent in a difficult role.
All of this is assembled with first-rate skill. Eric Steelberg's cinematography doesn't miss a glint of sunshine, while Rolfe Kent's score artfully moves us from drama to romance to thriller. But the story spends so much time wallowing in this wonderful Labor Day weekend that we've lost all interest before things kick up a gear in the final stretch. Indeed, the string of suspenseful touches hint at a much better Night of the Hunter-style film lurking inside Joyce Maynard's source novel.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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