Posts Tagged ‘Sean Bridgers’

Escaping Captivity

Room

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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson, Cas Anvar

Brie Larson gives an Oscar-winning performance in director Lenny Abrahamson’s claustrophobic film Room about captivity, sexual slavery and the perceptions of children. Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, director Abrahamson whose previous credit includes the bizarre Michael Fassbender film Frank, delves deep into the emotional and psychological trauma of those affected by a harrowing experience set in suburban Akron, Ohio.

This experience is the abduction of Joy Newsome, known as Ma who is sexually abused from the age of 17 and kept in a garden shed, which becomes the room of the title and stays there for seven years. During her incarceration she gives birth to a son Jack who becomes her world. Cleverly Room does not dwell on the horrors of captivity or sexual slavery, but fluidly follows the perceptions of this enclosed world formed by the 5 year old Jack wonderfully played by newcomer Jacob Tremblay, who really is the emotional centre of the film and certainly should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Joy Newsome known as Ma, is superbly played by relative newcomer Brie Larson (The Gambler, Don Jon) in a stunning performance which has scooped every Best Actress award in 2016 from the Golden Globes to the Bafta’s to The Oscars.

The exceptional depth of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s talent is displayed in the first half of Room, which is entirely occupied by Ma and Jack as they eventually hatch a plan to escape when Ma realizes that Old Nick, played by Canadian actor Sean Bridgers, cannot really afford to keep them locked up forever.

That escape and eventual discovery of Joy Newsome is thanks to the bravery of young Jack who must unwittingly go into a world he has never experienced and escape, find the police and alert them of their disappearance and capture. Brilliant shot, Abrahamson keeps the tension of the first half of the film and Brie Larson is extraordinary as she must know convince her young son, Jack that the world comprising Room is not the Real World and he must shift his expectation from fantasy to an altered reality of what the real world actually is.

Audiences expecting a neatly tied up dramatic end to Room will be thoroughly disappointed as the second half of the film after their release dwells more on the emotional and psychological consequences of the mother and son’s shared trauma than on any legal or criminal investigation into their prolonged captivity.

Joy’s estranged parents Nancy and Robert played by Joan Allen (The Contender, The Crucible) and William H. Macy (Fargo, The Sessions) are suitably good in a nuanced underplayed way, especially as Robert cannot bear to look at the product of sexual abuse, his grandson Jack.

Room is essentially a parable about a mother’s bond with her child in a cruel and vicious world where each of them are confined by their own perceptions of the world and the roles they are meant to occupy as parent and child.

Room is a thought-provoking and harrowing tale of survival which will keep audiences talking for years, held together by brilliant performances by Larson and Tremblay. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy an intelligent and emotional family drama.

 

Demonizing Dalton

Trumbo

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Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C. K. Michael Stuhlbarg, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Stephen Root, Roger Bart, Dean O’ Gorman, Alan Tudyk, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Director Jay Roach really gives audiences an opportunity to witness Bryan Cranston’s acting talents first hand as Cranston plays the Oscar nominated role of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in California in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950’s.

With the rise of McCarthyism in the early 1950’s and the vindictive Committee on Un-American Activities whose sole aim was to root out the perceived communist threat within Hollywood and many other facets of American society, the anti-communist witch hunt become notorious for ruining reputations and lives of artists, actors, directors and screenwriters. Even the famous playwright Arthur Miller was perceived as a threat and his persecution was illustrated in his classic play The Crucible.

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Dalton Trumbo, wonderfully played by Cranston, is an unconventional yet brilliant screenwriter who becomes one of the Hollywood Ten perceived by the Committee as harbouring Communist sympathies. Trumbo was, as his friend Arlen Hird played by Louis C. K. said, a Socialist with Champagne tastes. His flamboyant cigarette smoking, his unusual method of writing screenplays in the bath, his reliance on Benzedrine were all traits of a fierce creative genius who was ripe for prosecution.

Michael Stuhlbarg also gives an impressive performance as Edward G. Robinson who will do anything to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

In one of the great artistic injustices, Trumbo is found in contempt of the Supreme Court and sentenced to a Kentucky penitentiary for close to 18 months. Upon Trumbo’s release he is faced with the prospect of supporting his wife Cleo played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful) and three growing children, one of which is his feisty daughter Nicola superbly played by Elle Fanning (Maleficent).

Trumbo approaches a B-Grade studio, King pictures and soon does rewrites under a pseudonym under the guidance of the studio boss, Frank King boisterously played by John Goodman (The Gambler, Barton Fink). Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, The Queen) pops up looking suitably glamorous as the Hollywood actress turned gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who ambivalently supports the Communist witch hunt and soon suspects that Trumbo is indeed writing Oscar winning screenplays under another screen writer’s name.

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The Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck romance Roman Holiday was credited to Ian McLellan Hunter, played by Alan Tudyk in Trumbo, but was actually written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Roman Holiday won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and went to McLellan Hunter acting as Trumbo’s front.

In steps Kirk Douglas played by Dean O’ Gorman who secretly approaches Trumbo to write a screenplay about a man taking on the world. That film was to become the blockbuster Spartacus.

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Besides the cinematic historical value of Trumbo, the injustices he suffered both personally and artistically, what carries Jay Roach’s film, is Bryan Cranston (Argo) who never falters in his brilliant portrayal of the legendary Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo is a brilliant film, perhaps slightly uneven at times, but a fascinating portrayal of one man’s quest to get his name cleared and eventually receive the recognition from Hollywood that he deserves, especially for his talented contribution to film.

Trumbo is highly recommended viewing especially for cineastes and film historians, a brilliant portrayal of Hollywood in the 1950’s and the persecution of intellectuals by the American government of the time, whose paranoia concerning the cold war with Russia reached unreasonable proportions.

 

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