Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Reviews: Animal Kingdom

Will wonders never cease? A review on the same day a movie opens in my local market, and in several others. I have a plant in the Hollywood ecosystem to thank for my rare access to a pre-release screening, and Glenn Dunks to thank for beating the drum so long and loud for this title. In every other respect, I have David Michôd to thank for making such an entertaining and aesthetically ingratiating movie. I can't easily think of anyone to whom I wouldn't recommend Animal Kingdom, an engaging yarn told with formal finesse. My full review is here.

And actually, since I already reviewed Cairo Time last week, that's two debuts in the Chicago market on which I've officially gone on record. And they're both good! Somebody pinch me.

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Blogger Glenn said...

So glad to read this! It goes without saying that dismayed I can get seeing great local product get sidetracked for international success because it doesn't come from one of the big three (US/UK/France) and, thus, either can't afford the promotion or isn't seen as being exotic enough even if it is better than most of the product out there (I'd suggest you see Three Blind Mice on DVD, i'd be fascinated to hear what you thought of my favourite film from 2009).

I kinda get what you're saying about Weaver and I may have agreed with you had the film been so clearly about her, like Precious, but Smurf is such a small presence in the early passages of the film - with her creepy, incestuous lip-locks - that when she steps out of the shadows and proves that it is she, not Ben Mendelsohn's Pope, that really runs the family it came as such a treat. Not a surprise, but a treat. This woman has made it her business to be neither seen nor heard, but when her family is threatened she will go to any length necessary. I love the way she casually throws out passive aggressive comments at people such as during the now famous "you've done some bad things Sweetie" she tells the crooked cop "tell me if you agree with this". She might as well say "I have you strung up by the balls, but i'm gonna play with you like a cat with a ball of yarn".

I think, from a purely local perspective, the film succeeds because it looks so well-crafted without being glossy. We have a TV series here called Underbelly and each season follows a different (real, and yet fictional) underworld figure throughout Australian history. It's tricked out with bells and whistles, sex and violence, sex and sex, wild characters and more sex (breasts in every episode from season 2 onwards once they realised they were a bona fide ratings puller), but that's not the case here and yet it's still a professionally done film on a topic that Aussies are fascinated by. The car in the middle of the street as bait for the cops moment (and some of the events surrounding it) are inspired by the Walsh Street murders, a famous case here in my city of Melbourne (also the setting for Animal Kingdom). And it's so nice to see a quality film such as this filmed to actually look good. As you mention, there's no lingering on hyperdermics and lines of coke here, which is so often the case with local product (although, the film Animal Kingdom is most closely linked to is Rowan Wood's astonishing The Boys with David Wenham and Toni Collette. it's grungy, but so powerful that it transcends the grunginess that Australians have come to loath about our own industry).

One last thing, in regards to James Frencheville... yeah, I definitely think he was the weakest performance, but also the weakest character. I've seen plenty of people like that in time who are so clueless about anything that's not in their community housing project that the moment something actually happens to them they appear as catatonic ghosts, but just because they exist, doesn't meant they make for compelling characters on screen.

I hope this all made sense!

3:05 AM, August 20, 2010  
Blogger Glenn said...

Wow. That was long. Sorry.

3:07 AM, August 20, 2010  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

I tried not to read this as I had not yet written extensively about the film. But alas... I could not hold out any longer.

as usual a lot of insight here. though I do feel that Frencheville's performance works more than you or Glenn think it does, partially because he's meant to be projectable upon. I think if you took the characterization to too specific places (like a more thorough seasoned young actor might have) it might have lost the unformed feeling that the film needs in that protagonist.

6:09 PM, August 22, 2010  

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