Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brothers - A Review

On paper, Brothers is exactly the kind of movie I should love. It has an extremely talented cast, a gripping story, and eye candy in the name of Jake Gyllenhaal. It upsets me more than you will ever know to say that I did not love it. It was good enough, but I wanted it to be and thought it should have been great. I expected to walk out of the theatre simply blown away by the experience, when in reality I walked out thinking… that’s it? Much Sadness.

Brothers is the remake of a Danish movie of the same name, and as generally happens with remakes, I suspect some things were lost in the translation. Jim Sheridan's film, adapted from Susanne Bier's 2004 movie, concerns Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) a Marine who receives orders to ship out for yet another tour of duty in Afghanistan. But before he leaves his supportive wife, Grace (Natalie Portman), and his two elementary-school-age daughters, Sam picks up his black sheep brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has finished a prison stretch for robbing a bank. While overseas, Sam's aircraft gets shot down and he's thought dead. Back home, irresponsible Tommy gets his act together in order to be an anchor for Grace and the girls, and the two grow emotionally -- though not physically -- close. As the family finally begins to make peace with their grief, soldiers rescue POW Sam and he returns home. Sam's experiences overseas have caused him such emotional turmoil, he has a difficult time adjusting to civilian life, and soon his fear and paranoia manifests itself in the form of jealousy for his brother's relationship with his wife. Sam Shepard and Mare Winningham co-star as the brothers' father and step-mother. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

As I said in an earlier post, if you have seen the trailer for this flick, you pretty much know what happens. For me, as a whole, the movie felt unfinished. It just ends, pretty abruptly, with no real resolution. Sam tells Grace what happened while he was held captive, they hug….. and what…. Everything is okay again? Sam isn’t crazy anymore? Lame.

Also one major part of the story just didn’t work for me. I don’t want to completely spoil the film for the dozen or so of you reading this, but what Sam does as a POW, what tips him over the edge mentally, is so completely out of character, so totally the opposite of everything he has done thus far in the film, it feels as if it was added in simply to amp up the drama.

Happily though, this is a movie that is redeemed by the fantastic performances of Maguire, Portman and Gyllenhaal. Tobey Maguire is outstanding as the conflicted and emotionally damaged Sam. Apart from Pleasantville, I really haven’t seen him in anything but the Spiderman series. After this movie, I deffo think he needs to be in more films. His performance was disturbing, scary and heartbreaking all at the same time.

I am a huge fan of Natalie Portman. Not only for her acting (Stars Wars movies not withstanding), but also for how she has managed to avoid the pitfalls of stardom. She even went to Harvard to study psychology, and didn’t demand a security detail a la Ashley Judd. Anyways, she is also impossibly beautiful, something that I found stood against her a little in this film. She seems too gorgeous to live in that town, with those people, living that life. Performance wise though she was fabulous as always.

Do you agree that no one does puppy-dog eyed dreaminess like my boy Jake Gyllenhaal. He plays the bad boy who turns his life around perfectly. And watching Tommy horse around with his two nieces, helping them overcome their grief over the supposed death of their father made my shriveled black uterus skip a beat for just a second.

I thought the performances by the actors playing the young daughters – Bailee Madison and Taylor Grace Geare with natural and impressive. And to see Mare Winningham on the big screen again. Yay! I have adored her since St Elmo’s Fire. Her unrequited love for Rob Lowe's Billy..... sigh.

Overall, Brothers was a decent film. It was good - not great. The flaws in the film were redeemed by the impressive performances by the three leads. But I just wish it had been more ya know? I think that nine times out of ten, a remake of a foreign film falls a little bit flat. Things are typically lost in translation and the powers that be often seem hesitant to allow American audiences to see the film as it was intended to be. Don't get me started on one of my favourite foreign flicks - The Vanishing - and the travesty it became when they remade it. Bastards gave it a f*cking happy ending. Boo Hiss.


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