Sunday, July 19, 2015

Film Pairings – Danger In Small Places

These two crime films run against the trend. No special effects. No gratuitous violence.  And only one pitiful car chase between them. Instead we get literate, intimate stories about how crime affects those whose lives are intertwined with the victims, and stellar casts to tell the stories.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Torturo
In God’s PocketPhilip Seymour Hoffman, who died shortly after the film was released last year at Sundance, plays the guy who tries to clean things up after his particularly nasty stepson is killed. While director John Slattery fails, in my mind, with the humor side of dark humor, he does effectively render the culturally incestuous city neighborhood, God’s Pocket, as a place where murder, racism and xenophobia rule. Hoffman captures the well-intentioned but powerless poor soul with every movement and every utterance. His every action makes a bad situation worse.  John Torturo, and Richard Jenkins give their usual fine performances. The film is based on Pete Dexter’s novel.

Sissy Spacek
In The Bedroom — This is about as literary as a film can get.  I didn't read Andre Dubus’ short story, “Killings,” on which this film is based. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson play the parents of a young man who is about to embark upon his life. The youth, played by Nick Stahl, is killed by his girlfriend’s (Marisa Tomei) ex-husband. The event is devastating as we witness, moment by moment, the collateral damage. The killer, whose defense is self-defense, is out on bond and is hardly invisible in the tiny town. His presence and the likelihood his sentence will, if he is convicted at all, be light, is beyond the grieving parents’ ability to cope. I mentioned this film to a friend of mine.  A parent herself, she said this was one of the best movies she’d ever seen and that it is on her list of films she’d never, ever see again. Field, Spacek, Wilkinson and Tomei were nominated for nearly every award imaginable. The film was directed by Todd Field and released in 2001.

Refreshments: We can go from beer – PBR is okay – for the first film, which takes place in a seedy, insular, explosive city neighborhood to, considering the change of scenery, a modest white wine for the second, which has a charming emotionally repressed northeast lobster-trapping village as a backdrop.

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