In the Bedroom Reviews
First-time director Todd Field did a brilliant job portraying the loss, rage, and desire for revenge with the help of exceptional acting performances, and the observation of the taciturn anguish so readily available in our everyday lives.
The movie centers around a small town that has many secrets such as a younger man (Nick Stahl) having an affair with an older woman (Tomei) whom is married. Her hsuband is an abusive man and this tells a story of how all people deal with what is going on in the bedroom.....
[font=Arial][color=darkred]'In the Bedroom' opens with Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl) chasing his older girlfriend Natalie (Marisa Tomei) across an open grassy field. Frank is a budding architecture student home for the summer and thinking of prolonging his time so he can stay together with Natalie. Frank and Natalie have a distinct age divide but also seem to have been given different lots in life. She has a pair of boys from her abusive husband Richard (William Mapother) that she is finalizing a divorce from. Richard is hopeful he can reconcile with Natalie if he just gets another chance, but Natalie is stern in her refusal.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Ruth sees the relationship as a detriment to her son's future. She's even more upset that Matt is so casual with their son dating an older, working-class mother.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Frank rushes over to calm Natalie after another of Richard's outbursts of violence has left her house in shambles. She rushes her children upstairs just as Richard returns back. He manages to sneak in through a back door and confronts Frank in their kitchen, shooting and killing him.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]What should seem like a clear-cut case begins to unspool. Natalie admits she didn't actually see the gun fire and the charges are dropped from murder to manslaughter. Richard is released on bail and free to stroll around occasionally bumping into the grieving and outraged Fowlers.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]The majority of the film is the aftermath of the murder and the strain it puts upon Matt and Ruth and their marriage. Beforehand jealousy, anger, and bitterness would simply sit but slowly the tension begins to bubble to the surface. Ruth holds resentment and blames the leniency of Matt for the death of their son. Matt tries to get out of the house as much as possible, even if it means sitting in his car in their driveway at night.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]One of the most harrowing scenes of 'In the Bedroom' is also its emotional and acting centerpiece. After the mounting frustration with justice, Ruth and Matt explode into an argument that had slowly been building long before their son's death. This is the first time they have truly talked about the whole situation and accusations fly like bullets in their first emotional confrontation.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]'In the Bedroom' could have easily fallen into the area of sticky made-for-TV land, but the exceptional performances all around by the cast and the deft and studied direction never allow it to falter.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Spacek ('Carrie', 'Coal Miner's Daughter') can begin writing her Oscar acceptance speech right now. Her portrayal of Ruth displays the pride and seething anger, but keeps her human throughout. She exhibits pure, raw emotion that strikes directly inside you leaving a knot in your stomach and in your throat. Her performance is truly breathtaking and so emotionally visceral to watch.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Wilkinson ('The Full Monty', 'The Patriot') plays Matt with passive-aggressive doubt and repression. He dominates in any scene he is in and takes the audience on a wide range of emotions. He has a commanding presence and compliments Spacek's Ruth nicely.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Perhaps the greatest thing Tomei ('My Cousin Vinny', 'Slums of Beverly Hills') was known for was miraculously winning an Oscar and dumbfounding a nation. With 'In the Bedroom' she is given the ubiquitous "And" credit at the end of the opening cast list. She has less to work with and less screen time to work it, fully earning the "And"' credit she has.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Todd Field is an actor-turned-director and has appeared in such a wide array of films from 'Ruby in Paradise' to 'Twister' to 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Field has layered his film with rich symbolism and an intelligent, patient pace. Most of the action in movies is centered on what is going on in a scene, but the most telling moments of 'In the Bedroom' are what are not going on in the scenes. Field creates such an intimate portrait that the camera almost turns into another character, catching the lingering silences and the burgeoning inner turmoil. Field also adapted the screenplay from a short story by Andre Dubus, whom he dedicates the film to.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]'In the Bedroom' is not going to be for everyone. Some will find it slow and some might even find it boring. As it stands, it is a powerful film on the study of loss that grips you and refuses to let go. You will feel all the blame, jealousy, anger, and pain of this family and for such emotions to resonate from the screen to the audience is a great achievement.[/color][/font]
[font=Arial][color=darkred]Nate's Grade: A[/color][/font]
This is a sad story, I won't summarize for fear of spoiling something. What I will say is that it's not the most entertaining film, so patience is required to sit through it. But once you do, you'll be blown away with the quality of work these people put together.
There are inspired aspects here and there throughout this film, yet there are also plenty of borderline glaring lazy aspects, particularly within the originality factor, for even Thomas Newman's score is a touch too trite for its own good, and outside of that, this plot follows trope, after trope, after trope, with conventional characterization, until standing as hopelessly predictable. Now, I'd be a little more willing to get over that if the story wasn't too familiar for its own good partly because it's too realist for its own good, in that it draws overly grounded characters with overly grounded conflicts which are too minimalist in structure to open all that much potential for intrigue, and when it actually attempts to beef up, it tries a touch too hard. The film has some distancing melodramatic, or at least feels as though it does because of expository shortcomings, which not only limit the background development to characters who are thin enough overall, but undercook motivations for conflicts that are, of course, so important in this ensemble character drama, making it even harder to buy into potentially intriguing subject matter. Still, no matter how underdeveloped, this film takes its time to drag its feet something awful in order to achieve its very unreasonable runtime of about around 130 minutes, with meandering material and monotonous excess in filler that begin to lose a sense of progression, gradually losing momentum that, of course, falls all the quicker as pacing grows slower behind a dry directorial approach. Despite having a certain thoughtfulness to its coldness, Todd Field's naturalist directorial approach is just about the last thing a film this thin and structurally meandering needs, as it quiets things down something fierce to meditate upon nothing going on, until the film finds itself devolving into blandness, then continuing to fall until it hits dullness, and, well, even flirts with tedium. When the thoughtful direction bites, it really does sink its teeth into you, but it's generally rather misguided in its cold take on heated material that is still not intense enough for you to forgive all of the predictability, underdevelopment and repetitious structure that ultimately secure the final product as underwhelming. Still, as misguided as this film is, it finds its path enough time to endear, and do justice to a story worthy of a more realized interpretation.
A study on how a family struggles with coping after a tragedy befalls someone who intervened in someone else's family conflicts, this film's story concept is a little too familiar in the dramatic film industry, as well as too recognizable from real life to have all that much theatrical momentum, not helped by more dramatic minimalism than you might expect from looking at the broad synopsis, but it's still worthy, dramatically and thematically, as a portrait on the shaky depths of humanity that Todd Field takes with thoughtfulness, and too much of it. Field's steady storytelling is simply too steady for its own good, being somberly bone-dry, and even stylistically flat, so as cruel irony would have it, it's Field's ambitious steadiness which secures the final product's underwhelmingness through dullness, although such dullness might simply derive from Field's having only so much material to draw upon with his thoughtfulness, because when the script presents Field with the opportunity, his atmosphere nips, sometimes bites. Well, maybe the bites are much more occasional than that, as there is so much minimalism to material and coldness to storytelling, but make no mistake, there are effective moments here that are worth waiting for, once Field's efforts as co-writer with Robert Festinger present segments to latch onto. Formulaic, underdeveloped, overlong and even uneven, once it departs from a first act that features prominent characters and subplots which are jarringly ripped from the layered drama, Field's and Festinger's script is, well, something of a mess, and yet, if its directorial inspiration was a little more colorful, then the script could have perhaps driven the final product to, or at least close to a rewarding point, as there's still plenty of believable wit to the dialogue, as well as memorable characters who are not all that well-developed, but remain well-drawn enough to be reasonably worthy. Indeed, it does ultimately come down to the character aspects of this drama, because as the flat style, steady direction and sparse writing ought to reflect, this drama isn't about too much more than mere intimacy to very human conflicts, and while it often slips up even that department, when the characterization is meaty, the film is particularly endearing. Of course, it might not so much be that meat to characterization that sells the drama's most effective moments, as much as it's the selling of the characterization through the performances in a solid cast which, of course, has little to work with in this blandly minimalist affair, but still has the brightest highlights, with Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson particularly standing out in their subtly intense, when not powerfully emotive portrayals of good, older people whose relationship and individual humanity go challenged by an overwhelming tragedy that parents should not have to face. Quite frankly, the film starts out kind of promising with its thoughtfulness, but once you get used to its formula, it only loses momentum more and more, until sputtering out very much short of rewarding, yet well before it slips into mediocrity, it is secured as decent as more than a few highlights in storytelling that endear, despite the misguidedness.
In conclusion, the story is bland enough in its minimalism, without the conventionalism, expository shortcomings, exhaustingly overdrawn and sparse plotting, and dully cold atmosphere that slowly, but surely, drive a promising drama into underwhelmingness, challenged enough by effective moments to thoughtful direction and writing, and by strong performances, to do enough justice to an intriguing story that makes "In the Bedroom" an endearing and sometimes effective drama, even with its shortcomings.
2.5/5 - Fair
See, I enjoy dramas, that is why I liked this film. If you like Jackass, or The Ringer, this isn't the film for you.