Wednesday, December 14, 2011


2011 has been the year of somewhat disappointing (or at least confusing) comebacks. Monte Hellman made a return after an almost 20 year hiatus with the awful 'Road To Nowhere' (a film that most people are afraid to admit is really bad because of the legendary directors work from the 60's and 70's). Terrence Malick's return ('The Tree Of Life') took 4 viewings in the theater for me to decide if I liked it or not. Sure I came around to liking it, but the film still has its large group of haters (which is kinda understandable no matter how much I've grown to like it). Then we come to Lynne Ramsay's return with the VERY disappointing 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' (based on the book of the same name). Prior to this, Lynne Ramsay could do no wrong in my book. Sure she only had 2 features (the Terrance Malick-influenced/coming of age tale; 'Ratcatcher' and the "anti-chic flic" chic flic; Morvern Callar), a handful of short films and a music video to show for, but she was an example of quality over quantity.
At first, the idea of Ramsay doing a film about a high school shooting (...or the aftermath of a high school shooting to be more specific) struck me as odd. I hate to say this, but that's kind of an American problem and I didn't think a European director would be interested in exploring that. I'm sure there's been high school shootings in other parts of the world, but at the end of the day its an American issue. Furthermore, the idea of a high school shooting is a little played out at this point. Its 2011. Gus Vant Sant wrapped everything up nicely in 2003 with 'Elephant' (a film inspired by the Columbine Shootings). My biggest worry with 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' was that this was to be Lynne Ramsay's first film with real structure that REALLY focused on a plot instead of her previous films that relied more on hints, implications and the element of the unspoken. In 'Ratcatcher', Ramsay sets out the basic plot at the very beginning: a boy accidentally drowns from rough housing with another boy. But after that, the film branches out in to many other stories and subplots to the point where you almost forget about the dead boy at the beginning of the movie. In 'Morvern Caller', we almost forget that the films basic plot is about a woman coping with the suicide of her boyfriend and her stealing his unpublished manuscripts and passing it off to publishers as her own work. Instead, Ramsay takes us to wild Scottish house parties and on a vacation to Madrid with almost no mention of Morvern's dead boyfriend and the stolen manuscript. But being that I'm such a huge fan of Ramsay, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. ...And she let me down. There's nothing like waiting almost 10 years for the return of one of your current favorite filmmakers, only to have them disappoint.
'We Need To Talk About Kevin' is the story of a mother (played by Tilda Swinton) dealing with the aftermath of a high school "shooting" caused by her son (Kevin). The majority of the film is told through flashbacks from the mothers perspective, which is essentially her trying to work out in her head where she went wrong. From the flashbacks we see that Kevin was essentially a sociopath and hated his mother since birth for what seemed to be unknown reasons. We watch Kevin grown over the years in to an evil kid (he does nothing but scowl and give evil looks through the whole film) bent on a terrorizing his mother.
The films biggest problem was that it didn't seem believable. If I'm not mistaken, we're supposed to take this movie seriously, right? You expect me to believe a mother lived in a house with a kid who did nothing but scowl at people for 16 years without EVER maybe taking him to a psychiatrist or anything? Tilda Swinton's character, who I started to find really annoying after a while, actually looked shocked upon discovering it was her son who was responsible for the high school massacre that takes place in the movie. Really? You lived in a house with Damien from The Omen for all those years and had the nerve to act shocked to find your son committed a high school "shooting". OH! Speaking of the "shooting"... Kevin killed and injured a bunch of students with a BOW & ARROW (that's right, not a gun)? Sorry but I don't believe that. Maybe he could have gotten two shots off, but seriously...someone just tackle him!!! When you film a high school shooting (or high school "bow & arrowing") and people in the audience are laughing (which I saw some people do), you kind of failed.
Seeing this in Toronto with friends and overhearing what others had to say about it while waiting in line brought up some interesting conversations and perspectives that I didn't think about (like the possibility that the entire film's point of view is skewed because The Mother wasn't right in the head), but I still didn't like it.
Tilda Swinton's performance, which reminded me of an annoying elementary school teacher that was wound up way too tight and ready to crack at any moment, started to get on my nerves after 30 minutes in to the film. And John C. Reilly's typical dopey "everyman" performance was nothing special either (which is a shame because I really wanted his return to dramatic acting to be good and it wasn't).   
And I really hate that this movie is getting so much press and "oscar buzz". It doesn't make any sense. Her first two films didn't get half the hype that 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' is getting and they're both TWICE as good as 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'. It makes me cringe knowing that this film will be a lot of people's introduction to the work of Lynne Ramsay (similar to how I cringe thinking about people discovering David Gordon Green's recent work like; 'The Sitter' and 'Your Highness' first, instead of his earlier more personal work like 'George Washington' and 'All The Real Girls').
I dunno, I guess I like Lynne Ramsay more when she's vague. I don't recommend this movie at all, but because of the buzz its getting I'm sure many of you will go to see this.


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