Posted on 4/18/11 10:26 AM
The director of The Station Agent and The Visitor comes up with a movie that has the feel of a modern day Frank Capra film. Paul Giamatti plays an attorney whose life is unraveling because his law practice is having troubles. We feel for Giamatti's character(Mike) until he commits an appalling ethical breach to make easy money off and old man(Leo)played by Burt Young(Rocky). This decision Mike makes drives the rest of the plot especially after the down and out attorney meets Leo's grandson Kyle. Kyle and Mike become bonded to each other after Mike, who is also a wrestling coach at the high school, discovers that Kyle is an excellent wrestler. Sounds familiar? Contrived? Sure, but who cares, the screenplay, characters, actors and the story are all great.
What impressed me the most though was the kid who played Kyle(Alex Shaffer). This kid blew me away in his portrayal of a teen who even with a lot of hardships remains true to his inner self. Shaffer is a dark-eyed bleached blond who I just found out never acted before. From his perfomance, I figured that he started acting from the womb. He was absolutely extraordinary in this. This actor exhibits such warmth and fragility without being sugary sweet or maudlin. Kyle is introverted and protective, but somehow there is so much more that is revealed just under all the layers that he has built up to keep away the pain and hurt. It is a subtle, but revealing performance. Shaffer has created a character with a great Zen quality of confidence and love that may be lost on some who don't easily pick up on subtle aspects of such a character. Shaffer was a high school wrestler when he decided to audition and even after getting the part he figured he'd do it and then go back to being a normal kid. But, now, after attending the premiere at Sundance, he got a taste of what it is like to be a celebrity and he now has a publicist, agent and is taking acting lessons. I hope I see more of this guy; he is excellent. Oh, and the movie is definitely a candidate to be on my "Best of 2011" list. Go see it.