Tale of Two Movies

The connective tissue of the two movies I saw in the last two days is the wonderful actress, Laura Linney. As I discussed these movies with a friend, she mentioned that Laura tends to take on meaningful roles in movies that warrant thought and reflection. After enjoying these movies, I find myself in agreement.

The first movie I saw was The Squid and the Whale. This film chronicles a family that is dealing with the transition of a divorce. Performances are amazing all around. The characters felt vivid and complex. The movie was both hilarious in how each member chooses to deal with their pain (like the younger son's cussing tirades and other activities) and sad at the same time. I didn't find it sad because of the actual break up -- let's be honest, some family environments simply aren't adaptive and healthy. The sadness for me came from the character's isolation from one another -- their journeys were very much separate from one another. When together, the family dynamics felt real. For example, I was impressed with the portrayal of each son "siding" or identifying more with one of the parents. Or how the father, played by Jeff Daniels, twisted events in his life as a means of earning approval (both his own and from others). The mother sought comfort in being in relationships. The older son, who saw his father as a role model, followed in his footsteps by using his intellect and force of personality to feel valued.

The second movie was The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Admittedly, I did not know what to anticipate from this movie. I probably would not have seen it if I wasn't called on by a friend who didn't want to see it alone. All I can say is the trailers do not serve the story well. While they may have been an effective marketing campaign (because the imagery is quite creepy), the focus of the movie is on the trial of the priest who performed the failed exorcism -- was he guilty of negligent homicide? The movie provides a perfect balance of horror and court drama. Moreover, it instigates questions of belief but provides no answers -- as Laura Linney's character says, the case asks us what the possibilities are. Just when I thought Emily's experience had a medical explanation, another piece of evidence suggested a supernatural possession. Then another possibility was presented (which I won't give away). In the end, it asks us to reflect, but doesn't act as an agent for change. We are encouraged to undergo the same process Linney's character (who is Agnostic) faces. As a non-believer who defends a Catholic priest and encounters unexplained phenomena, she takes a journey herself. The dynamics in the courtroom, the testimonies, and the opening and closing statements (particularly by Linney's character) were the force of this movie. The flashbacks to the exorcism provide a graphic and disturbing experience that lets the viewer take in the events and make his/her own conclusions.

1 comment:

Allie D. said...

Two movies that are on my Netflix list! I agree about Laura Linney. I particularly loved her in You Can Count On Me, Primal Fear, and The Truman Show. She's a great actress, and is one of the hardest working women in Hollywood, who like Joan Allen, has gotten a good deal of recognition, but not quite what she deserves from her peers.