powerful oscar contender that delivers. generally i’m turned off by pictures like this because they come off as entirely constructed to please the academy. it’s a story of the underdog with several oscar winners/nominees and an up and coming director. judging by the producers, though, this seems more like a case of a group of people believing in the story.
essentially the film is a cross between norma rae and erin brokovich, and i think it’s as good as both. as is usual, it all starts with the screenplay which is excellent from top to bottom. the dialogue, the settings, the storytelling, the characterization – all are just where they need to be. the settings echo and amplify the feelings of the characters. the characters are realistically drawn in that they have both positive and negative attributes. the storytelling is efficient and well-paced. caro’s direction enhances the mood well. shots of the mine are either claustrophobic and dungy (when indoors) or agoraphobic and snow white (when outdoors). caro uses the exteriors in a similar way to the coens in fargo – to show the isolation and hopelessness of the characters. the court room sequences are shot with saturated sepia tones reminiscent more of documentary footage than a hollywood film. though the acting was quite good i think that the cinch here is in the screenplay which should get nominated for best adapted screenplay.
theron is very good, but mcdormand almost steals the show with one chilling stare that comes while she’s in the courtroom. spacek, bean, harrelson and the rest are also solid. richard jenkins, who plays a lot of humorous roles, does a great job with a difficult role as theron’s father. like many of the men at the mine jenkins is an enabler because he doesn’t speak out against the abuse and harassment that takes place. spacek (jenkin’s wife) is an enabler of another kind – by being the supportive wife she allows jenkins’ views on women in (and out of) the mill to go unquestioned. it’s only when she takes action that he steps up to support his daughter’s fight. all these dynamics reinforce the theme that we’re all in this together; a theme that was so powerfully represented in norma rae.
the film is definitely better than caro’s other major picture – whale rider. while i like the island more in certain ways i think it’s safe to say that this is the best film released this year that i’ve seen.Watched in theater