We Need to Talk About Kevin


We Need to Talk About Kevin

Sometimes the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty; it's just plain empty.

(2011) Psychological Thriller (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rock Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Alex Manette, Kenneth Franklin, Erin Darke, Ursula Parker. Directed by Lynne Ramsay

 

Being a parent is a terrible job. You try to guide your child into making good decisions but yet they insist on doing things that are hurtful to themselves and others. Your advice is sneered at and your opinions are unwanted. It’s a lot like living with a demonic entity. You only can hope and pray that they’ll grow into responsibility and maturity which they generally do with no help from you. However, there are cases that are special – and not in a good way.

Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton) lives in a kind of half-light between twilight and full-blown night. She self-medicates with alcohol and pills; her face is a mask of numbed misery, the face of someone who knows life is horrible and full of pain and meant to be endured, not experienced.

She wasn’t always like that. She used to be carefree and full of life. She had the love of Franklin (Reilly), a decent man and a kindred spirit. She traveled the world. Then she got pregnant.

From the beginning, Kevin (Duer) was a handful, screaming constantly to the point where while on walks with her baby in his carriage she would pause by the jackhammers of construction workers to drown his squalling out. Then, her husband would arrive home and the screaming would end. “See?” Franklin would exclaim, “You only need to rock him a little bit,” while the exhausted new mother looks on in disbelief.

As Kevin grows into a young child (Newell), his development is out of whack – or so it seems. He doesn’t speak – not because he can’t but because he refuses to and he never utters the word “mama.” He chooses not to engage with his mother. He wears diapers until he’s in grade school – not because he doesn’t know how to go to the potty but because he can torture his mother by pooping in his pants at inopportune moments. He glares at his mother because of some unspeakable crime only he knows about and sets upon punishing his mother for the act of giving birth to him – torturing her and beating her down with misbehavior, but absolutely delightful with everyone else.

As Kevin grows older, into his teens (Miller) his petty acts of vandalism escalate, killing the beloved pet of his little sister (Gerasimovich) and “accidentally” causing her to lose an eye when she knocks some household cleaners into it. However, these are merely the opening acts for a spectacular finale that is still to come.

Ramsay tells this story, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, non-sequentially, allowing the story to drift from present to past over 18 years. Some have found it confusing but I actually think it a brilliant move. Past and present exist as one in Eva’s benumbed brain, as she tortures herself with what every parent does – what did I do wrong? How could I have done better?

It becomes apparent early on that Kevin has committed some horrible act that has turned the community against Eva, causing them to splatter her home and car with red paint, to slap her outside her place of work and to break all of her eggs in their carton in the grocery store. She puts up with all of this with the misery of a self-flagellator.

Part of why this works so well is the performance of Tilda Swinton. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work here and to my mind should have gotten an Oscar nod as well. Eva represses her feelings big time but we see them in her eyes; she’s haunted by the specters of what could have been and what has been. She can’t escape her past and she doesn’t think she deserves to. She’s racked with guilt and is in every sense of the word a broken woman, but it wasn’t an abusive spouse or boyfriend who did it – it was her son.

Both Miller and Newell are absolutely creepy as Kevin at various stages of life. This must have been completely alien to their way of thinking – without any regard for human feeling, delighting in the agony of others. How, at such young ages, do they gather the life experience needed to play someone like Kevin so well? Yet they both do. Kevin at all stages of his life is entirely believable as a sociopath and if he hadn’t have been, Swinton’s performance would have been entirely wasted.

As a parent I left the movie thinking to myself “what would I have done?” Probably very much the same as Eva I suppose. Franklin was completely oblivious to Kevin’s growing evil, mainly by design. Kevin’s final act of horror is to create a torture so ingenious and elegant in its complete evil for his mother, tying her to an area where she will be the object of scorn and hatred as well as the memories of those gone before her.

And that’s the haunting element of the film. How could someone do something like that? What drives them? How is it that you could torture someone you love knowingly? These are questions that are generated by this movie and perhaps are impossible to answer. Did Kevin become evil because of the way his mother brought him up (which the movie shows wasn’t always the most loving in the world) or was he born that way, wired for it? I don’t have any answers for that and I suspect we probably never will.

REASONS TO GO: Swinton is spectacular here. Leaves you with many questions after the film is over. Extremely melancholic.

REASONS TO STAY: Some might find it morbid and too intense.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some very disturbing scenes of sociopathic behavior and some violence, as well as a smattering of sexuality and some fairly raw language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film was in development for six years, delayed mainly with BBC Film’s concern over the budget.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/9/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 78% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100. The reviews are resoundingly good.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Beautiful Boy

RADIOHEAD LOVERS: The music for the film was composed by lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood.

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

NEXT: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

New Releases for the Week of April 6, 2012


April 6, 2012

AMERICAN REUNION

(Universal) Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Tara Reid, Thomas Ian Nichols, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Shannon Elizabeth. Directed by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

The kids of East Great Falls High have graduated and scattered to the four winds. Of all the couples that had come together ten years ago, only Jim and Michelle remain together, now married with a baby. That’s a far cry from band camp brother. In any case the whole gang is coming back home for the ten year reunion. It may be ten years gone from high school but these are friendships that endure a lifetime. The latest in the American Pie franchise.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sex Comedy

Rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking)

Coriolanus

(Weinstein) Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox.  A revered general of Rome is pushed into seeking the position of Consul. When he refuses to kiss tush with the masses, they refuse to support him. His anger prompts a riot which results in his expulsion. He winds up allying with his sworn enemy to take revenge on the city. This is the latest Shakespeare adaptation, updated into a modern setting and the directorial debut of Fiennes

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for some bloody violence)

Housefull 2

(Eros) Akshay Kumar, Asin, John Abraham, Jaqueline Fernandes. Four con men pose as rich prospective husbands for four brides. They all wind up living together under the same roof, causing much mistaken identity, much paternal hair-pulling and many spontaneous musical numbers.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Intruders

(Millennium) Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Daniel Bruhl.  The latest from visionary Spanish horror director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo follows two children in two different countries who are haunted by a being known only as Hollow Face. Nobody believes the children when they tell adults about what’s happening to them but as events begin to pile up there is no denying something beyond our understanding is going on.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for terror, horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language)

Titanic 3D

(Paramount/Fox) Leonardo di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, David Warner. The all-time box office champ and the winner of more Oscars than any other film in history gets the 3-D treatment. The ship still sinks.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for disaster-related peril and violence, nudity, sensuality and brief language)

We Need to Talk About Kevin

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Ashley Gerasimovich. A mother must deal with the fall-out of her son’s heinous actions, as well as the ire of her community. Her relationship with her son is called into question as is her culpability in the acts that he committed. Swinton received a Golden Globe nomination for her role as the mother.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Rating: R (for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language)

Four-Warned: December 2011


December 2011Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE

1. EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (1.0)
2. SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (1.3)
3. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (1.5)
4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)

1. THE LADY (1.3)
2. THE BIG FIX(1.4)
TIE. CARNAGE (1.4)
4. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

DECEMBER 2, 2011

A WARRIOR’S HEART (Xerxes) Genre: Sports Drama. A young man grieving over his father’s death in Iraq finds solace in a lacrosse camp run by a Native American soldier who served with his dad. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Was the world really waiting for a lacrosse movie?
ANSWERS TO NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A missing child investigation has different effects on several Los Angelenos hiding their own secrets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Stellar cast led by Dane Cook in an unusually dramatic role.
THE BIG FIX (Green Planet) Genre: Documentary. Exposes the myth that the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been cleaned up, and shows the troubling control that Big Oil has on our political system. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.4 Could wind up being one of the most important documentaries of the year.
CORIOLANUS (Weinstein) Genre: Documentary. A Roman general, expelled from his city, allies himself with his mortal enemy to take revenge. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opening in limited release January 20). RATING: 2.0 Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays.
I AM SINGH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. In the wake of 9-11, Sikhs are discriminated against and beaten by Americans thinking they are terrorists. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating idea for a movie but the trailer looks a bit overwrought.
LADS & JOCKEYS (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. The lives of three inhabitants of a school for horse racing jockeys in Chantilly, France is profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.2 Will definitely appeal to those who love horses and horse racing, not so much to everyone else.
THE LADY (Cohen Media Group) Genre: True Life Drama. Aung San Suu Kyi fights for democracy and peace in Burma against the despotic regime there at the cost of her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 One of the most compelling stories of our time with one of the most compelling actresses (Michelle Yeoh) of our time starring in it.
OUTRAGE (Magnet) Genre: Crime Thriller. Rival clans vie for position in the Japanese yakuza. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 An ultra-violent Japanese mobster flick looks to be one of the best of its genre in a very long time.
SHAME (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A man with a sex addiction has his life thrown completely out of kilter when his wayward younger sister moves into his apartment, sparking painful memories of the past. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Michael Fassbender reunites with Hunger director Steve McQueen in a very sexually explicit drama.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (IFC) Genre: Drama. A reckless university student takes a job as a sex worker, allowing old men to have erotic experiences with her as she sleeps; her work eventually commences to bleed into her waking life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A very sensuous, intriguing trailer.

DECEMBER 9, 2011

CATCH .44 (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. A seemingly straightforward assignment to pick up a drug shipment at an isolated diner turns into a free-for-all orgy of violence and betrayal. Release Strategy: New York City/Charlotte. RATING: 2.9 A great cast including Bruce Willis and Forest Whitaker but a kind of weak trailer.
I MELT WITH YOU (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Four college buddies go off for an annual weekend in Big Sur but the debauchery leads to some revelations about their dissatisfaction with their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Cast includes Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane, three actors who are always worth seeking out.
IN DARKNESS (Sony Classics) Genre: Biographical Drama. Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief whose only loyalty is to money, hides Jews in his sewer in World War II Poland. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles one week qualifying run (Opening in limited release January 27). RATING: 2.0 A compelling story from an amazing director.
KNUCKLE (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Documentary. A pair of feuding families in the Irish Traveler bare knuckle fighting underground society are portrayed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Kind of looks fascinating but kind of doesn’t; I’m not quite sure which.
LADIES VS. RICKY BAHL (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A slick con artist who uses his good looks to charm women out of their money gets his comeuppance when his victims unite to take him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Lighthearted, effervescent and disposable, this is what Bollywood is all about.
MY PIECE OF THE PIE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. An out of work single mom takes a job as a housekeeper for a ruthless financial magnate in Paris. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Cedric Klapisch is one of the best filmmakers you’ve never heard of.
NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A group of people in varying romantic situations converge on New York City for New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Along the same lines as 2010’s Valentine’s Day.
THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. A slacker college student living with his mom is forced to babysit three precocious kids, bringing on the chaos in triplicate. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 It’s Adventures in Babysitting with Jonah Hill and if that sounds appealing to you by all means have at it.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Focus) Genre: Spy Thriller. A British spy comes out of retirement to smoke out a double agent in the ranks of the British Secret Intelligence Agency. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (Opening in limited release December 16). RATING: 2.3 One of the greatest novels from one of the greatest espionage thriller writers ever (John Le Carre) finally makes it to the big screen.
W.E. (Columbia) Genre: Romance. A modern romantic looks into the lives of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, whom he gave up his throne for and discovers their relationship wasn’t as perfect as she thought. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (one week Oscar qualifying run; opening in limited release February 3). RATING: 2.9 Madonna’s the director; don’t judge.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Psychological Thriller. When her son turns out to be sociopathic, a mother’s culpability comes under scrutiny. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles 1 week Oscar qualifying run (Opening in limited release January 27). RATING: 1.8 One of the creepiest and most disturbing trailers I’ve seen in a long while.
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount) Genre: Black Comedy. An amoral writer of children’s books returns home for a high school reunion with one eye turned towards the prospect of stealing her high school crush from his wife. Release Strategy: Limited (opens wide December 16). RATING: 2.1 Looks like one of those comedies where you laugh hard and then feel ashamed, but in a good way.

DECEMBER 12, 2011

DAGUERREOTYPES (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The shops and shopkeepers on the Rue Daguerre in Paris are profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Acclaimed documentarian Agnes Varda takes a loving look at the street on which she has lived for fifty years.

DECEMBER 16, 2011

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS – CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family. While on a cruise, Alvin and the gang are shipwrecked on an island that isn’t as deserted as they thought. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.7 I still can’t figure out how they took a one-joke movie and turned it into a franchise – or why.
CARNAGE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. Two New York white collar couples gather to discuss a playground incident in which one child was injured by another, when things break down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 The latest from Roman Polanski boasts an outstanding cast and a wonderfully tense trailer.
CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (Anchor Bay) Genre: Documentary. One of the greatest producers of “B” movies in history is paid tribute as filmmakers and stars try to recount his rightful place in movie history. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Corman is one of my heroes but the trailer looked a bit like a hodgepodge.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) Genre: Spy Action. After the IMF is shut down after being implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot, it is up to Ethan Hunt and his team to ferret out the truth or die trying! Release Strategy: Opening wide in IMAX only (opening in Wide Standard on December 21). RATING: 1.8 This is supposed to be the passing of the torch for the franchise from Tom Cruise to Jeremy Renner.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Action Suspense. Holmes and Watson are back and this time they’re up against the evil Professor Moriarty in a plot to throw Europe into chaos. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 The first film might have irritated Holmes purists but I found it extremely entertaining and satisfying.

DECEMBER 21, 2011

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Paramount) Genre: Adventure. An intrepid boy reporter searches for the wreck of a sailing vessel that might have contained a device of unimaginable power. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.5 Already a huge hit overseas, this is motion capture which hasn’t done well here – except it’s never been done by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson before either.
ALBERT NOBBS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Period Drama. A woman posing as a man in 19th Century Ireland is trapped by her own charade. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Starring and written by Glenn Close, looks awfully intriguing.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Columbia) Genre: Thriller. A disgraced journalist joins forces with a gifted but troubled hacker to solve a 40-year-old murder. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 An Americanization of an extremely well-made Swedish moviemight ordinarily not be welcome but it is David Fincher directing.
PINA (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Choreographer Pina Bausch revolutionized 20th century dance. Release Strategy: New York City only (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.6 Wim Wenders directs Germany’s official entry for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

DECEMBER 23, 2011

DON 2 (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Crime Thriller. The overlord of Asian crime bosses has his sights set on the European market. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Perhaps an allegory for modern economics.
IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (FilmDistrict) Genre: War Drama. A Serbian man and a Bosnian woman find each other on opposite sides of the civil war, even though they once were lovers. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 A gut-wrenching trailer bodes well for the directorial debut of Angelina Jolie.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) Genre: True Life Drama. A single dad buys a zoo and moves his family there in an effort to bring them closer together. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 From the look of the trailer, Matt Damon is well-cast here.

DECEMBER 25, 2011

THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. An American tourist in Moscow is stranded when the city is attacked by aliens. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 The trailer looks intriguing although hopefully there will be some better eye candy than what we saw.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Drama. A young boy who lost his dad in 9-11 is convinced that his father left him a final message hidden somewhere in the city. Release Strategy: Limited (Opens Wide January 20). RATING: 1.0 One of the most emotionally affecting trailers I’ve ever seen; they had me at Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.
WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) Genre: War Drama. Steven Spielberg directs the journey of a horse from its bucolic English farm through the trenches of World War I in France. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Could be wonderful, but the trailer looked a bit treacly.

DECEMBER 26, 2011

NEWLYWEDS (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. A newly married couple have to put up with the interference and antics of their somewhat deranged siblings. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The newest from actor/director Edward Burns, and it looks like one of his best ones yet.

DECEMBER 28, 2011

EL SICARIO: ROOM 164 (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. A hitman for a Mexican drug cartel is interviewed in a hotel room, revealing disturbing details about the drug trade and its political ramifications. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A compelling subject which may not translate into a visually compelling film.
PARIAH (Focus) Genre: Urban Drama. An inner city African-American teen slowly begins to embrace her sexuality as a lesbian. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A big hit at Sundance, now finally hitting theaters in time for Oscar consideration.

DECEMBER 30, 2011

A SEPARATION (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An Iranian man whose wife is divorcing him because he won’t leave his Alzheimer’s-ridden father is accused of a heinous crime by the maid his daughter hires. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks interesting.
ANGEL’S CREST (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young father’s moment of thoughtlessness results in tragedy; when the local prosecutor decides to zealously pursue the matter, the small town is torn apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked plenty harrowing.
THE IRON LADY (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England during the Reagan era. Release Strategy: Limited (Expands January 13). RATING: 3.1 Meryl Streep might be looking at another Oscar nomination.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
New Year’s Eve, The Sitter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, In the Land of Blood and Honey, We Bought a Zoo, The Darkest Hour, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, War Horse, The Iron Lady