Rating: 2.25 of 5
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a neutral movie.
There’s nothing really wrong with this movie. As I watched it I never thought, “Oh, they should have done this.” or “Why did they have to do that?” There’s really nothing I feel is a fair criticism.
But there’s also very little praise worthy. I never thought, “Oh my gosh, I love that.” or “That was so beautiful” or had my heart broken by one of the characters.
But however neutral it is on an intellectual level, I never connected to it emotionally and therefore didn’t like it.
This horribly dramatic thing happens in their lives and we watch it unfold, but I never felt what they feel. I just watched it unfold. The film was very raw, very natural. It looked and felt like real life more than a movie, which I think was important for what they were trying to accomplish, but I didn’t like it.
I thought the oldest girl (Shélan O’Keefe) was interesting to watch, very pretty and smart. Of all the characters I found her the most compelling. Especially as we saw her begin to grow up, to notice a boy and talk to him and try smoking; to lose a bit of her innocence before another piece was taken by her mother’s death. But even then, I wasn’t drawn into the film through her.
I thought John Cusak’s performance was good. He disappeared into the role very well, but it wasn’t a character I had much affinity for. I do think there was an honesty in his performance that was rather incredible. I understood why he went to his mother’s house and why he fell asleep crying in his brother’s room, the anger and love with his brother and why he kept running. I guess the thing I did like about him was his desire to give his girls a moment of delight in their childhood while it was still theirs; his need in that time to not be bound by the conformity of civilized rules. Coupled with his need to run it created an interesting blend of bravery and cowardice. But all of that is an intellectual observation, not something I felt or experienced.
It was a film where the moments counted, which I guess is true of life. The surprising thing was the moments that counted. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the news of Grace’s death. But I liked his desperate message to her on the answering machine, to tell him what to do. I liked the moment where he told the girls, but I wasn’t as moved by it as I was the final moment. When they all stood there and the little girl’s watch went off that was by far the most touching moment of the whole film.
But I can’t help scoring this film without taking into account what I know from behind the scenes and I have to give it some credit for intent.
John Cusak said that he made this film after President Bush banned the footage of coffins coming home from tv, and his outrage at that. The film is pretty politically neutral, though John Cusak is not. He asked what was wrong with stopping our regularly scheduled programming for a moment of silence for the fallen, because as it is the families suffer in silence. And he wanted to do something that spoke into that silence. The film accomplishes that very well.
John Cusak said another interesting thing. He was talking about playing this character and he said one of the things that changed as a result of playing this guy who has such a different political stance from himself was that he lost some of his arrogance for people who think differently than he does. I thought that was eloquent and humble and liked it.