ONE could not help thinking that they were the ideal family living the American dream. They lived in the suburbs in a well maintained house that was surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn. The husband owned a company; the mother did volunteer work and twice a year they and their children would go on a vacation; never to the same place twice. I was friends with their youngest child. As we all grew old they still looked like one big happy family; I knew better. On the outside nothing had changed except for one detail. If you were to meet them now there would be one less child. INSIDE their house the only signs that there was another child could be found in a few photo albums that were stuffed in some drawers. I never knew what happened but their child was not missing; he did not want to have anything to do with his family. The parents and their other children did not know if he was dead or alive, where he lived or what he did to make a living. It really was heartbreaking to see this though as I said the family always kept up a strong face. My friend had told me a few things that had taken place inside the household. From this I learned never to judge someone based on appearances. As they say you never know what goes on behind closed doors. I have witnessed other incidents with other people where a similar situation took place; things much worse than what I just told you. It truly baffles me on what could have happened to have resulted in such extreme measures. This dramatic crime film is an example of what I mean. LIFE was going so well for Swede Levov, played by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Star Wars franchise); which only made it harder when his daughter Merry, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, I Am Sam), started acting differently around the house. Based on Philip Roth’s (The Human Stain, Portnoy’s Complaint) novel, this film festival nominated movie also had as part of the cast Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Blood Diamond) as Dawn and Peter Riegert (Local Hero, Animal House) as Lou. Set in the 1960s I liked the look of this picture. The film shots were well thought out; this may sound odd, but everything in the scene was well placed. I felt the acting was this film’s strongest suit. I have not enjoyed Dakota’s acting in recent films but I thought she was excellent in this role. If I am not mistaken this was Ewan’s directorial debut and sadly this was the problem I had with the movie. I thought his directing was unpolished; there were times I was bored with the story. It just seemed as if the action was being sucked out of several scenes. The story was interesting but I do not think it translated well into this script because I found parts of it dull and wasteful. Here is the thing though; based on the trailer I thought this was going to be a better film. I need to remind myself not to go into the theater with expectations that are solely based on a movie’s trailer; looks can be deceiving.
2 ½ stars
Every decision opens up a new path of travel; though it may not always be the best choice, every new road laid is fraught with actions and reactions. If you choose a sugary cereal over a low sugar one for breakfast you may experience a letdown from your “sugar high” during the morning hours. You discover while driving to work the shortcut you took delayed you further because of the freight train that stopped you at the railroad tracks you now had to cross. Each of these decisions affected you solely, or did they? What if an important phone call was missed because of your delay and the new customer calling with their large order decided not to leave a message and called your competitor, who was willing to match prices? I have said this before but every action causes a reaction; it is just that simple. The ones I have a hard time with are those that cannot be easily explained or do not come with a reason. It is like a friend of mine who was dating someone new for 4 or 5 dates, thinking everything was going well. All of sudden their date stopped communicating. No reply texts, no returned phone calls; there was no reason given for the total silence. This has happened to me and I have to tell you it can throw one for a loop depending on how much was invested into growing the relationship. I always have to wonder, when things happen between two people, if the one individual knows what kind of affect their actions cause to the other person. Even when reasons are laid out, we do not always know what reactions may take place later on. ESTHER Messner, played by Linda Emond (Julie & Julia, Stop-Loss), was so proud of her only son Marcus, played by Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Percy Jackson franchise). He was going on a scholarship to college to become a lawyer. Everything would go as planned as long as Marcus stayed focused and studied hard. Set in the 1950s this drama had a competent cast to handle the story based on Philip Roth’s (Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain) novel. With Tracy Letts (The Big Short, Homeland-TV) as Dean Caudwell, Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, A Dangerous Method) as Olivia Hutton and Ben Rosenfield (A Most Violent Year, 6 Years) as Bertram Flusser; I thought all were quite good. I only wished there were more scenes with Linda’s character as the mother. The sets and costumes were perfect for the era; this film had a distinct look to it. I especially enjoyed the acting out of Logan and Linda but I found the script becoming top heavy as the story played out. The scenes between Logan and Tracy intrigued me at first but then it felt more like a therapy session than a student and administrator. I was surprised by the turn of events in the story but I almost wished they had taken place earlier. Besides these few quibbles I enjoyed watching the actions and reactions taking place in this movie.