I WAS FRIENDS WITH ONE OF THE two brothers. Though I did not know much about the older brother, it was apparent the two brothers were quite different. My friend had an idea what he wanted to do when he grew up. Maybe the brother did too; but I was not aware of it. I do remember whenever the brother would mention a career path he was interested in doing, his parents would usually nod their heads and mention something else they thought was better suited for him. Now granted, a lot of the times I would hear these conversations taking place from a different room while my friend and I were doing something in an adjoining space; so I could not see the physical reactions that I am sure were accompanying the dialog. If someone were to ask me how I thought the conversations were going, I would say they sounded more combative than a calm discussion. Whether these talks had an affect on the brother, I do not know. The only thing that was quite apparent to me was how dark the older brother seemed compared to his younger brother. By dark, I mean he was more of a moody soul that rarely cracked a smile; heck, he barely said hello to me whenever I came over to their place. ONE OF THE REASONS I REMEMBER THESE two brothers is because they were the first set of brothers I knew who were so different in almost every aspect of their lives. I always assumed my friend was much smarter, though he was not athletic like his brother. The younger one never got into a fight with his parents (at least while I was around) like the older one. There were a couple of times I was over at their house when the older son and his parents would get into a screaming match that nearly made the walls shake. The yelling would end with the son either slamming the door as he went into his bedroom or slamming the front door as he ran out of the house; it was always an awkward moment for me. I would look over at my friend and all he could do was shrug his shoulders with a sheepish grin on his face; I felt bad for him. As long as I knew them, nothing ever changed in that family. The last I heard about them was that the older son had moved out during high school and hasn’t talked to his parents since. I wondered if the family in this film festival winning drama had a similar dynamic that made their sons so different. RETURNING TO THE SMALL TOWN HE GREW up in, a Vietnam vet’s brother hopes he can convince his brother to settle down and enjoy what life has to offer both of them. The returning brother did not see it quite the same. Written and directed by Sean Penn (Gangster Squad, Milk), this movie starred David Morse (The Hurt Locker, The Green Mile) as Joe Roberts, Viggo Mortensen (Green Book, Captain Fantastic) as Frank Roberts, Valeria Golino (Hot Shots franchise) as Maria, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood, Medium-TV) as Dorothy and Charles Bronson (Death Wish franchise, The Magnificent Seven) as Mr. Roberts. This was a slow to start story for me. It was wild to see some of the actors in their younger versions, since this film was nearly 20 years old. I thought Viggo, David and Patricia were especially strong with their acting. The script provided me a glimpse into a different world, set in a rural town at a time where things moved slower. There was a bit of repetition with the scenes dealing with the brothers; however, as bits and pieces was being revealed I found myself becoming more interested in where they were going in the story. If nothing else, it was interesting to see how 2 brothers who were raised in one house turned out in life.
2 ¾ stars
IF THE CLICHÉ “OPPOSITES ATTRACT” IS TRUE then why do I see less of it happening? With so much arguing taking place between people and countries around the world, it disproves this statement. I know this cliché’s origins started in science, but mankind has used it regarding personal relationships. It might be more complicated than that; I prefer to think two people are better suited and satisfied in a relationship when they have a good understanding of their differences. There was a couple I knew who displayed opposite emotions. The wife was quick to get angry and upset about things, while her husband was laid back and went with the flow. They rarely argued because they understood how each other reacted to things, avoiding the pitfall of trying to change one another. When his wife would get into one of her fits over something, he would let her blow off steam before he would place his hand on her and say something soothing such as, “Don’t worry, it will be okay.” or “What can I do to help?” The fact that they understood each other created a stronger bond between them, in my opinion. FROM WHAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED IN my life there is something I never understood. It seems to me many people shy away from those that are different from themselves. They may interact, but it is strictly on a surface level. The thing I do not understand is where was it decided that different equals something wrong or bad? As a person who used to not express himself fully, I may be at the other end of the spectrum now; most people who know me well can tell how I am feeling at any given time. The reason for this is because I believe communication is the key; as far as I know mind readers are a rarity, so if you want someone to know something you need to express it to them. I had a friend who, unbeknownst to me, had a hard time keeping up with me whenever we were out walking somewhere. I never knew it was an issue because he never said anything about it. Not until one day he finally yelled at me, telling me I walked too fast for him. I asked him why he just did not say something in the beginning instead of holding it in all this time until he wound up shouting at me. You know, people would learn so much about each other if they would simply talk to one another. This comedic drama based on a true story can show you how it is done. OUT OF WORK FOR TWO MONTHS nightclub bouncer Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic, Eastern Promises), was recommended for a position to be a driver for a doctor. Tony was shocked when he discovered the doctor was a black man who was not even a medical doctor. There was no doubt in his mind that there would be problems. With Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Free State of Jones) as Dr. Don Shirley, Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, Scooby-Doo) as Dolores, Dimiter D. Marinov (Act of Valor, The Americans-TV) as Oleg and Mike Hatton (Vigilante Diaries, Shot the Hero) as George; this movie was one of the best road trips I have taken this year. Set in the 1960s, the sets and costumes perfectly matched each other as they set up the space for Viggo and Mahershala to really dig deep into their roles. The script with its mixture of humor and drama made this trip pleasurable for me, even during the tougher scenes. If the script’s intentions were to manipulate the viewer I was not paying any attention to it because the message here was beautifully told. I left the theater feeling good, filled with excitement to express my feelings to you.
After all the different styles and methods I have seen, I have to wonder if it comes down to just doing your hardest and wishing for the best when it comes to raising children. When I was a child I used to hear adults say so and so is a bad kid; now when a child is acting up I hear adults say the parents are bad. Sadly I still see some parents hit their children or make outrageous, unrealistic demands on them. Things like, “If you do that one more time I will take all your toys away and burn them,” or “If you take 2 more bites of your food, I will give you $5.00;” yes, I have actually heard these comments. Now I do not want to paint a dire picture here; I have witnessed some solid well thought out child rearing techniques. There was a person I knew who when it came to potty training her child explained the benefits of using the bathroom. She also talked about the negative aspects of walking around in a dirty diaper. I was fascinated by the discussion and the child’s reaction. When the child was told no one would want to play with her if she was wearing a dirty diaper, the child forgot her fears and started telling her mother every time when she had to go to the bathroom. I found it extraordinary since I had never seen that technique before. As for the methods used in teaching the children in this comedic drama, they were as foreign to me as the present world would be for them. HOLED away in the Pacific Northwest Ben, played by Viggo Mortensen (The Road, The Lord of the Rings franchise), was teaching his 6 children how to survive in their little corner of the world. The skills the family was learning could only teach them so much. This film festival winner allowed Viggo to shine in his role as the father. Not that the other actors such as Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate) as Jack, Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Garden State) as Abigail or George MacKay (Defiance, How I Live Now) as Bo were less skilled; they all blended well together just like the kids did in this drama. The beginning of the story started out a bit slow for me; I felt like it needed more action. However as things moved along I started to appreciate what the script was laying out for the characters. Let me add the drama increased when Frank’s character Jack came into the picture. I felt the intensity building in the story and admired the range of emotions Viggo performed. With the story lines and buildup that took place I was somewhat disappointed at the ending. I may have been reacting to a particular character, but I sort of felt I was wishing for something different to happen. Nonetheless I can see this story being a catalyst for many discussions between people, especially for those who have children.
What is it about the western movie genre that attracts a loyal following? My maternal grandmother loved them and both my parents were big fans for years. I think it is because there is a no-nonsense purity to them. They depict a time in our history where everything seemed to have a direct cause and effect mindset. For these reasons, that is why this movie worked well on several levels. The story began straightforward enough about a town hiring law men partners Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, played by Ed Harris (The Abyss, Pollock) and Viggo Mortensen ( A History of Violence, The Road) respectively, to protect itself from the menacing rancher Randall Brage, played by Jeremy Irons (Margin Call, Georgia O’Keefe). This was Mr. Harris’ project since he was director, actor and part of the writing team. He, along with Viggo’s fine acting, really made this movie worth watching; both were outstanding in their roles. In the hands of these two actors, the script was better than I thought it would have been with different actors. The two deputies found their job becoming complicated when Allison French, played by Renee Zellweger (Miss Potter, My One and Only) arrived in town. In spite of a few slow parts, I reckon this old fashioned western is worth renting, if nothing else to see the mighty fine acting.
2 3/4 stars — DVD