Ralph Breaks the Internet
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
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All Critics (23)
| Top Critics (12)
| Fresh (13)
| Rotten (10)
You have your basic family psychodrama, except there's no real heat either downstairs or up.
Modest in scale, it's the kind of American independent film that brings some honor to that shopworn descriptor.
The film uses the upper-middle-class setting effectively, even as it resorts to heavy-handed symbolism and melodrama in its dour, mostly unforgiving portrait of parental dysfunction.
A detailed, and depressing portrait of grim, forced independence. Lightened only by the sense that if these kids are learning anything, it is how to survive.
This imitation "Ice Storm" is as refreshing as a step into a puddle of slush.
Between the loaded conversations and metaphors, and the phony overlay of a children's fairy tale, The Playroom can't stop telegraphing themes and interpreting itself. There's nothing left for the audience to do.
Leaving too many questions unanswered, and an ending that's less than satisfying, The Playroom intrigues and latches on to the viewer's conscience enough to stick through the tale.
Molly Parker is Oscar-worthy in the juicy role of John Hawkes' alcoholic, stylish, sexy/pathetic wife.
The stuff with the adults is drab and stale, but the kids' scenes are excellent.
In the tradition of The Ice Storm, The Playroom revisits 1970s suburbia, when the chilly civility between husband and Stepford wife bumps up against the sexual revolution.
It's a misfire from screenwriter Gretchen Dyer and director Julia Dyer, who can't connect the puzzle pieces, resulting in a movie of attentive performances working through ill-defined storytelling.
If The Ice Storm was a band, think of this as the minor-chord, label-unsigned, opening act for its opening act. Lovingly captured but dramatically inert.
Some teenagers imagine losing their virginity as a romantic rite of passage. And then there is Maggie(Olivia Harris) who just wants to get it over with her boyfriend Ryan(Cody Linley) in the family garage. Even that does not go as planned, as her mother(Molly Parker) soon arrives home, followed by her father(John Hawkes), a lawyer. And eventually the neighbors(Lydia Mackay & Jonathan Brooks).
For the record, we have been here before plenty of times. Specifically, 1975 when parents were behaving badly and children were left to pick up the pieces.(Actually, Molly Parker was also already, in the late lamented television series "Swingtown" which covered a lot of the same ground.) And then there is the fact that the filmmakers seem to be using the film solely to work out some long festering parental issues here.(To be honest, if I had four kids, I would drink heavily, snort cocaine, inject heroin...oh you get the drill. Just be thankful I'm never having kids.)
But beneath all of those tired cliches, "The Playroom" gets right how in larger families older kids take care of the younger ones. Plus, the movie is artfully constructed with a neat use of camera and voiceovers to give a dreamy effect to the proceedings. And each in their own way Molly Parker and John Hawkes are both excellent but you knew that already.
The four children of middle-class couple Hawkes and Parker are sent to the attic while their parents drunkenly entertain another couple downstairs. As the night progresses, and the drink flows, a revelation comes out.
This stagey variation on 'The Ice Storm' seriously wastes its acting talent with a tired, cliched and pretentious script. The seventies setting only seems to serve as an excuse to play a few tunes from the era. Newcomer Harris is impressive as the eldest daughter, and will go on to bigger and better things undoubtedly, but if you tuned randomly into any soap opera episode it wouldn't be much worse than this.
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