Animal Kingdom Reviews
In Hawaii. Dark and shitty - very slow and just not good!
A gritty Australian crime drama based on Melbourne's history of tough fatherless crims and corrupt police squads.
David Mich˘d's screenplay for Animal Kingdom is a clear example of the Institutionalized story type forwarded by Blake Snyder. (Snyder 28-29) Our protagonist, Joshua 'J' Cody provides us entre to the hierarchy of the Cody family and the institution we are to navigate through his perspective. Whether or not you agree that James Frecheville's performance as J was overly reserved or bluntly nuanced, I found his take to be a mature approach to a character that could've been overwrought. Upon initial viewing, I was unimpressed with the movie but found a gained appreciation through a subsequent viewing. It was through this second viewing that I was able to assess the elegance of the performance by Frecheville, especially considering the orbit he gets pulled into.
From the first image, we are given a very sympathetic introduction to J as he placidly sits and watches the Australian version of Deal or no Deal next to his overdosed mother. Through this tragedy, he reaches out to his grandmother for help. We have just been unwittingly introduced to the arch-criminal of the entire Cody family through the wholly unassuming, stellar performance of Jacki Weaver as Janine 'Smurf' Cody, the matriarch of the Cody family.
Upon entrance to the family dynamic, J is pulled into the fold. Despite the na´vetÚ of J, he is given an irrevocably choice to display his dominance and take his place in the pecking order as he first interacts with archaic life of the Cody clan. J wades into the criminal pool and is gradually led in over his head by his uncles and grandmother. In Screenwriting 101 by FILM CRIT HULK!, the author states, "Cause and effect are the linking of your chain. They make a story a story," this especially relates to the way Mich˘d brings J along through the story by including him through the links between the uncle characters and the plot. (HULK and Wright 35) He is conspicuously missing from all of the real violent scenes until he decides to fulfill the commitment to violence he made in act one which seems to connect him to all of the links of the chain forged by his family.
The violence surrounding the Cody family is an all-consuming storm that J finds himself at the eye of throughout act three and the fateful finale. Though J seems to be a listless teenager at times, he is unremittingly forced to become an active protagonist while being dragged along by his family and Mich˘d. J shows little empathy throughout the film but Frecheville portrays him in such a way that we assume his good intentions through his innocence, we are witness to innocence lost and we must come to terms with J's actions in the finale.
J seems to be pulled along in the story and given little choice but to resort to violence in retrospect. He could very well have chosen to leave Pope to succumb to his own ineptitude and downward spiral while choosing the path of peace. Of course, he would still have to deal with Smurf and her machinations. Seeing that he would still have to deal with the most sinister of adversaries in his own grandmother, he must choose to be ruthless.