Quick Movie Review: Room (2015)

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If you’re itching to see a masterpiece in film, then go out and watch Room. It’s the perfect example of filmmaking that doesn’t dumb itself down for its audience. And at the same time, it isn’t highbrow or overly complicated.

Room starts out in a padded room with a young boy, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), and his mother, Joy (Brie Larson), lying in a bed together. We’re not sure why they’re there at first. But eventually we figure things out. Joy was abducted 7 years prior and Jack is her son by her captor.

Joy is a normal mother. She loves her son. She get’s annoyed by him from time to time, just as a normal mother would. Everything is not hunky-dory, but the two of them are content there with each other. Or at least Jack is. You can sense, in Joy’s eyes, that she is hiding pain. Jack doesn’t know of anything that’s happened. He knows of no world beyond those walls.

It’s not until about 25 minutes in where we realize what’s going on. But we don’t mind because the journey there is just as riveting. The plot is revealed very slowly, as the filmmakers let us figure things out on our own, and do well not to spell things out for us. They don’t assume the audience is stupid–at least those who are willing to commit to the storytelling. Nothing is ever stated, but we have a grasp on background and character dynamics due to brilliant exposition.

Room is slow, I admit, but consistent. Director, Lenny Abrahamson knows what he’s doing at all times. Besides getting fantastic performances from his leads, I’m thrilled with every choice he makes. From what he includes to what he omits, he understands what’s necessary for us to get as organic of an experience possible. This movie could very well be depressing, but it intentionally never stays in one place long enough to do so.

Larson is something to behold in this film. She’s pretty much gives as flawless of a performance that anyone possibly can. It’s perhaps the best female performance I’ve ever seen. And Tremblay, for a child, is extremely believable the whole way through.

The film is ultimately about moving on. And that process can be long and drawn out and never-ending. There are times while watching this film when we ask ourselves how it will end. Not because we want it to, but because we’re not even sure how any ending would be enough. But then we find out we’re not looking for an ending at all, but a beginning.

Twizard Rating: 100

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Quick Movie Review: The Gambler (2014)

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I can always use a good gambling movie. Unfortunately, this isn’t a gambling movie. The title may throw you off, but Mark Wahlberg’s character, Jim, even says so himself; “I’m not a gambler.” As disappointing as that is, I have to look past it. I have to take this movie for what it is–a story about a cynical realist who has a gloomy outlook on humanity and is struggling to rediscover his purpose. But he’s not actively looking for a reason to live, until a couple of them fall into his lap. He didn’t think he wanted a reason, but realized that sometimes you don’t have a choice. You can try to control every aspect of life, but you have no control over your heart.

And while the messages of The Gambler may be well intended, the execution is a different story. The dialogue, although smart and often funny, just sounds like every character is speaking directly from the writer’s mouth so that all of them are having the same supercilious conversation with themselves. Each character seems like an arrogant, vulgar Woody Allen.

Under the direction of Rupert Wyatt, the drama and suspense work outside of the actual gambling itself is impressive. But together with the DP, Wyatt seems to not understand the world of blackjack or basketball enough as a spectator. I typically become resilient when watching basketball movies because I understand the game too much that the slightest error annoys me. It’s laughable, but I let it slide a little here. But the movie is about gambling–blackjack to be specific–and the filmmakers continue to show us 1st person perspective while NOT giving us enough glimpses of the dealer’s hands. How can we adequately feel the suspense if we can’t see what Jim is seeing–or the rest of the table for that matter?

What works is Wahlberg’s interpretation of Jim. You can see in his eyes that he understands him, and that he and Jim are one in the same. You’re convinced.

The rest of the cast is great as well. Brie Larson, who always delivers her lines with such fluidity, and John Goodman, who is as intimidating as ever, are joys to watch on screen.

But regardless of how entertained you are, you might be disappointed, like me, that The Gambler isn’t really about gambling at all.

I heard the 1974 original is better anyway.

Twizard Rating: 74