In The Bedroom
***.9 GM
Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Nich Stahl, William Mapother


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I was expecting nothing special from this movie. After seeing the rest of the Best Picture nominees for 2001 and still feeling justified in my anger at Memento and Ghost World being shut out of the group, I figured this flick would be another underwhelming Gosford Park sort o' thing. Seems I was wrong.

Wilkinson and Spacek are Matt and Ruth, the parents of a young man named Frank (Stahl), who's become involved with an older woman (Tomei), her two children and her impending escape from a bad marriage. They're worried that Frank might be getting too involved with her and less involved with his education, but it turns out the real reason they should be worried is that the estranged husband is touched in the head and winds up killing Frank. His parents are then left to deal with the horrendous grief of such a tragedy, but they can't even bring themselves to talk to each other about it, because they both secretly blame the other for letting it happen. Needless to say, this leads to serious problems later when the bastard is out on bail and driving them nuts.

This sounds like the makings of a loud-stinger-scored shitty Ashley Judd movie (like "High Crimes"), but director Todd Field does such an incredible job with mood and subtlety that although there isn't a helluva lot that happens, the subdued anticipation and anguish strung along throughout draws you in anyway.

There were several times during the film where I had to get a hold of myself and say 'holy crap, I've got to remember to breathe here.' It's a whole film of quiet tension and slowly building desperation that doesn't let up, and I didn't even notice I was caught up in it until I found myself needing to take a moment or two and just unravel.

The grief feels real, and all of the mourning and adjustment to the death of an only child is portrayed with the perfect mannered frustration by Wilkinson, and the stifled rage against the injustice of it all that festers and mutates with no outlet is embodied by Spacek's demanding Ruth.

So you might notice that my expectations were exceeded rather mightily. I'm just happy to see a movie worthy of the nominations it received.

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