Saturday, September 08, 2007

Oscar Worthy

This is the week of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). And despite all the years of wanting to attend and living right downtown Toronto for five years B.K. (before kids) we have never seen a single film at the event! Now that we live in the burbs, I've discovered a free ticket to creating my own mini Suburbia-FF - the local public library.

I love the library. Unfortunately, it hasn't really helped my goal of being a well-read mother. Which is a lofty goal, and will perhaps be more attainable once my little home renovation project is complete. My primary reason for going there these days, (other than exposing my kids to a little-known concept of “free”) is the video library. I’ve managed to find some great movies there, movies that I never got see when they were in theatres, but really wanted to see. And the bonus is that they’re absolutely free.

In honour of the TIFF, here's my take on a couple of DVD's I watched recently. These were both nominated for acting Academy Awards last year. :


Little Children, a movie based in a suburban neighbourhood, which follows the lives of a reluctant stay-at-home mother, a reluctant stay-at-home father, in their community dealing with the recently released convicted pedophile who has moved back in with his elderly mother across from the neighbourhood playground. I remembered hearing great things about this film, and it didn't disappoint. I loved this movie as this seemingly ordinary setting has such darker themes just under the surface.

Initially, it almost appeared as an indictment of the whole stay-at-home lifestyle, as it portrays the stay-at-home mothers as such catty, judgemental women who have nothing better to do than keep their children to regimented play and snack-time schedules, and dream about the hunky stay-at-home Dad (aka "Prom King"). What fodder to add further fuel to the mommy wars. But as the movie progressed, I felt the caricature-like personas they were given provided the backdrop needed to highlight the heroine's struggles within.

The SAHM Sarah, as played by the fantastic Kate Winslet, is in such denial that she is living this life. To survive each day, she has to pretend she is conducting a study in sociology while her young daughter plays in the playground. A previous academic who feels she has given up so much by marrying an older man who's quite successful in "brand marketing" and staying home with her toddler daughter, she appears so much happier when her daughter is anywhere but with her. Sarah wants out in a huge way, and it makes it easier for the audience accept her subsequent adultery with the Prom King Brad (Patrick Wilson) when we find out that her husband is also having an e-affair with internet porn sites.

Brad also has his own issues, having completed law school but failed the bar exam twice. He is currently at home with his toddler son, supposedly studying for another attempt at the bar. He is also being supported by his gorgeous documentary filmaker wife Kathy (gorgeous Jennifer Connelly). He hasn't grown up, nor does it appear that he wants to, but he is resentful of his SAHD status as well. It is inevitable that these two dreamers gravitate toward each other as they both seek escape.

The other plotline about the released pedophile played by Jackie Earle Haley, comes in and out of the main story seamlessly and with great effect. His elderly mother is fiercely protective of him, while he is harassed by the one man "concerned parents coalition" that wants him out of the neighbourhood. As one movie review noted (and I can't for the life of me remember which one), this relationship is the only one in the movie that reflects the absolute love between a parent and child. The movie does end with some shocking events, but also with some important lessons. Extremely well done, with some exceptional performances.

Kate Winslet – even her eyebrows can act. Will someone give her an Oscar already? It's always so unfortunate when actors miss out on awards because of timing (honestly, no one could win with Helen Mirren in the running as the Queen!).

Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile - creepy looking even as a young teen in the Bad News Bears, he is at his creepiest here. Where has he been? Coming back with a vengeance in this pivotal, dark and disturbing role. His Oscar nomination was so well-deserved.

Patrick Wilson – played the Prom King to great effect. Where has this hotness been? This type of Dad doesn't frequent any playgrounds in my neighbourhood LOL! No Oscar nods here, but it was fun to watch him. Very steamy sex scenes with Kate. OMG.


Half Nelson. Two words: Ryan Gosling. A Canadian no less! He was the movie. I can't believe I spent almost two hours watching a young man's life spiral downward and out of control on crack, but I was mesmerized by his performance. He was so convincing as Dan Dunne an exceptional and well-liked inner city history teacher and girls' basketball coach by day; crack and coke head party animal by night. He develops a friendship with one of his students, a young girl who's left on her own a lot (single mother works all the time, older brother is in prison). This young girl also has a mentor/guardian in the form of the neighbourhood crack dealer, so Dan is torn by his need to protect her from the world he is very much a part of himself.

The last movie I saw him in was the sappy love story "The Notebook". Who knew he had this in him? The Academy Award committee couldn't even ignore this performance.

He is only 27 years old so I'm sure he'll have many more opportunities. I can't wait to see what else he's got in store for us. He dated the lovely Rachel McAdams for a while, but now rumour has him linked up with Lenny Kravitz' and Lisa Bonet's daughter. A baby!!! He even dated Sandra Bullock at one time - she's older than me, so I'm not the only dirty old lady on this planet. Can you say it with me? Cougarrrrrrr!!

(DVD images from amazon.com)

6 comments:

Family Adventure said...

Hey Karen,

Excellent review of Little Children, which I did manage to see while it was playing. It is a great movie. Disturbingly intense and sometimes just plain disturbing. Haunting, too. It definitely stays with you for a long time.
Have not seen Half Nelson, precisely because of the subject matter, but will perhaps give it a shot now. I am not great at watching movies that have no silver lining. I do not need a HHE (Happy Hollywood Ending), just give me a bit of hope! :) Anyways, great job on the reviews. I am currently making my way through the documentary Planet Earth - and it is fabulous. Well worth a look if you have the time...

C said...

Great reviews! I'm looking forward to seeing both now. I meant to see Little Children, but never got around to it.

I'm thinking of getting back to TO sometime this month or next. We must get together with J, D, and D. Lunch/supper? Shopping? Lunch and shopping? LOL!

Karen MEG said...

Heidi- LC was haunting indeed. Made me really appreciate my time with my kids right now - in some scenes little Lucy looked just like little G! Half Nelson is not a pretty movie for sure, but the ending, while not exactly "happy" is not without its own sense of hope and does "celebrate" this unique relationship in a lowkey fashion.
C- All of the above, and you didn't mention any drinking LOL! Can't wait ;)

Danielle said...

Hey there Karen, I too would love to read but have not been able to for the last little while. Your reviews seem great.
Hope all is well

Beck said...

I LOVED the book of Little Children, which has made me a little bit nervous to watch the movie - but I've heard from so many people that it's great, so I'm actually going to break down and watch it now.

Curiosity.Killer said...

I like that 5 years B.K. (before kids). Well coined!

I've been meaning to see Little Children too -- especially now that you've mentioned it so well... thanks.

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