We’re Talking about Kevin

I don’t know how I left this one off my Best & Worst of 2012 list, because We Need to Talk About Kevin (Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly) is a rather unforgettable movie.

It is the only time on film that I have seen depicted a son who, from birth, loathes his mother.  The contempt the son has for his mother is at the heart of this picture, and it makes for a compelling, even riveting story.

Kevin would have been rated higher, as this is a fascinating original work whose scenes are consummately executed.  But there are two big flaws that bring it down.  First, though believable enough while watching the movie, a little thought afterward renders the consistently hateful behavior of the son toward his mother as less than credible.  It’s a little hard to believe that her son would act this way in the first place, and then that his mother, a responsible professional writer, would tolerate it to the extent she does.  This flaw is huge in that it forms one of the two tent-poles of the movie; the two basic premises of the movie.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (IMDb Still)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (IMDb Still)

The other flaw lies with the depiction of the mother’s life without her son.  When not spending time with the unfortunate family, the movie jumps forward to a time when the lone mother, rather mysteriously, is living on her own as a pariah of the community.  The mystery is not fully explained until the final climactic scene of the movie, and it is an explanation that does not congeal at all.  I cannot discuss further without giving away the end, so I will refrain for now.  But this explanation serves as the second major premise of the movie and greatly weakens the whole, yielding a dissatisfaction as I walked out of the theater.

Nonetheless, this movie is not boring.  Where it works it works well, so I’m giving a qualified recommendation to We Need to Talk About Kevin: 6/10, which puts it between Barbara and Arbitrage on my 2012 list.  It is broken, yet delivers a particularly nasty and novel form of sheer evil which is a sight to behold.  Make sure to watch the trailer first (link here; scroll down and click on trailer) to get a sense of whether or not it’s your cup of tea.  It’s gotten a lot of praise elsewhere, so you may just love it.  And it will definitely stick with you for a while.

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Film Brief: Under Still Waters

You will certainly not seek out Under Still Waters (2008, Lake Bell), but if you do come across it take a pass.  It starts out as an overly contrived, highly played out story of the couple-on-vacation meet a broken-down biker on the side of a road, offer to help, then all hell breaks loose (à la The Hitcher (Rutger Hauer, 1986) and Breakdown (1997, Kurt Russell and J.T. Walsh)).  But soon enough we learn there is more to it than that; maybe the biker is not such a stranger after all.  Unfortunately its attempts to create a unique story fail to provide anything worthwhile, but Lake Bell and her two cohorts are interesting enough to warrant a 3/10.  For much better movies in this vein, see Last House on the Left, Straw Dogs or Eden Lake [“Riveting Rentals”], or, for the psychological thriller angle, Secret Window [prior post].

Quvenzhané Wallis on Rock Center

220px-Beats-of-the-southern-wild-movie-posterQuvenzhané Wallis, the youngest actress ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and costar Dwight Henry from Beasts of the Southern Wild, to which I have warmed a bit since first seeing it [prior post], are interviewed on last night’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.  I highly recommend watching the entire program; also included are very interesting segments on Ron Popeil and phone-powered smart medical technology.