It's been a long time since I've heard an audience audibly gasp. During "In the Bedroom," it happened. Twice.
There are certain implicit rules we as audience members have come to expect cinema to follow. It's one thing if a popcorn movie like "Executive Decision" or "Austin Powers" violates one of the rules, it's quite another when something as realistic as "In the Bedroom" breaks one.
In typical domestic dramas, audience members fall into a comfortable groove where they obediently follow the movie, soothed by the feeling that they can roughly approximate what will happen.
This does not happen with "In the Bedroom." While on summer break from an Ivy League college, Frank (Nick Stahl) is getting serious with an older woman and her children. His parents disapprove. So does her husband. Obviously there are going to be some problems.
"In the Bedroom" deviously tells this version of a tale we have all heard many times before -- lulling us into a false sense of familiarity with a remarkably realistic feel. In the first half of this film, Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek could be your parents and Strout, Maine, could be your home town.
As in life, terrible things are never expected to happen. But they do. The reactions of the characters who may as well be relatives by the time the event happens makes "In the Bedroom" the type of film that won't soon be forgotten. Stahl does an OK job but doesn't add much to his role, especially when compared to his parents. As Frank's mother, Spacek is a fantastic bitch in more ways than one.
Although she convincingly plays the jaw-droppingly attractive older woman, Marisa Tomei's strange hybrid of a Boston and Long Island accent makes much of her dialogue seems out of place given the realistic feel of the film.
Director Todd Field does everything he can to make this film as realistic as possible, and Tomei's mush-mouthed accent is but a small blemish. His slightly grainy, shaky camera work gives some of the shots the feel of an old home video.
When the film finally does derail from the track we all know by heart, the realism makes it all the more jarring. The realistic feel combines with the film's violation of expectation for a suspenseful conclusion. It's at this point that "In the Bedroom" finally stutters.
This film's strength is its realism, and although the ending is good one, it's not the logical conclusion you've come to expect from the film's intelligent characters.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
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