Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Snow Angels (David Gordon Green, 2007)

Most reviews I've read of David Gordon Green's delayed (it premiered at Sundance 2007!) Snow Angels remark upon how Green seems uncomfortable, out of his element in the movie. I'm starting to suspect that reviewers just read previous reviews and then parrot them, because I didn't see that at all. One review, I can't remember where, said that the movie is like watching these people from the inside of a car, to the detriment of the film. I agree and disagree; Green is detached from the film because the characters are detached from their lives. No one in the movie, save perhaps the teenaged couple of Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby (who can stop playing the quirky teen friend any day now), have a hold on their lives. Everyone in the movie seems to just be moving with the tides, and where their emotions and circumstances take them. In that respect, Green got it completely right.

Angarano plays Arthur, a teen who works at a Chinese restaurant with Annie (Kate Beckinsale), who used to babysit him. Annie is separated from the mentally unstable Glenn (Sam Rockwell), with whom she has a 4 year old daughter, Tara. If that drama wasn't enough, Arthur's parents are in the middle of a separation themselves, and Lily (Thirlby) is a new girl with a huge crush on him. But none of this is frivolous (some have called the movie humorless, which I again couldn't disagree with enough -- I found myself laughing at some moments, usually as the only one in the theater). In this movie, everything means something. In the half-ridiculous, half-revelatory opening scene, the high school band, including Arthur on trombone, is marching and playing a distorted version of "Sledgehammer." In a monologue that mirrors exactly every school band director I've known (band geek here), the band director tells his band fervently that every move is based on the person next to and in front of you, and every move is precisely what it needs to be. This is the most important speech in the film; it lets you know where Green is coming from in this portrait of small-town malaise.

Sam Rockwell continues his reign as my favorite working actor. His task in the movie is a really tough one; Glenn could end up just being a pathetic psycho, which he certainly is in some scenes, but Rockwell endues Glenn with something else, something that makes the audience feel sorry for him, and sincerely empathize with him. Kate Beckinsale is very good as well, and again, reviews have called her a hothouse plant just put down in the middle of this environment, that she doesn't belong there, but I think that's a lot of Annie's tragedy. I think I missed the point where Beckinsale became a "real" actress, but I like it a lot. Amy Sedaris also delivers a surprisingly solid performance (for someone known for comedy) as Annie's friend and coworker. If Snow Angels is playing near you, don't let the mediocre reviews stop you from seeing it. It's a beautiful, agonizing portrait of regular people and regular tragedies.


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