A quite violent character study film from Michael Winterbottom (director of ’24 Hour Party People’) sees Casey Affleck (from the excellent ‘Assassination Of Jesse James’) playing a respected member of a small 50’s Texan community with a hidden dark, violent and psychopathic side. Lou is someone who uses the love of the people around him and the promise of escape to a fresh start as little more than a route to instant S&M gratification and a means to an end. Those people around him include Jessica Alba’s and Kate Hudson’s characters.
It’s based on a Novel written in 1952 (I haven’t read it) and the process of adapting a whole novel to a film may have resulted in some crucial parts of the backstory and psychology being removed if, indeed, they were there in the first place. Some encounters sit a bit funny in the beginning of the film as characters are clumsily added for consideration later on. Other characters disappear later on with seemingly no explanation. The film shows the awful consequences of the violence our lead character dishes out to the women in his life (often with a blank expression and with little remorse) and it’s obviously impossible to sympathise or engage with him, but it’s a character that takes all the screen-time, which is a little problem when he’s a bit empty and, well, dull. In fact, more than that: you see the whole film from Lou’s perspective, which might go some way to explaining some of the more unbelievable scenes, or that some of the story is fictional, or why the violence towards some characters is lingered on but others not even shown, but this avenue is not used at all so you have to take everything as fact.
It’s not a terrible film and I’m being critical because it could be a very good film, but you can’t help drawing comparisons with better films as you sit through it: for a film about how violence can affect everyone and everything around like a virus: David Cronenberg’s ‘A History Of Violence’, for a film about an interesting psychopathic character who blurs the line between sanity/reality and his warped head: Christian Bale in ‘American Psycho’, for a film with shocking violent acts presented in a way to make you think and question your initial thoughts on the consequences: Gaspar Noé’s French film ‘Irreversible’, and for a Southern Desert States Sheriff type murder whodunit: The Coen Brother’s ‘No Country For Old Men’. All very good films.
As the story compounds and the trail gets longer, the decisions of the story get more and more bizarre until the final scene is just ridiculous and the effects laughable. “Where did that guy go? Is she really there? No can’t be. Looks it though. She can’t be saying what he thinks she’s……. oh who cares.”
A well acted film about a rather bland character whose story has a fair few holes in it and reaches an unsatisfying conclusion.
2 on 5
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson
UK Release: 4th June 2010