Posts Tagged ‘brie larsen’


Room (2015)

February 20, 2016

Starring: Brie Larsen, Jacob Tremblay
Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Bottom Line: Imagine being born in a shack, growing up within those confines, and having no concept of your situation or the outside world. You have T.V., food, a man that stops by to deliver groceries and lay with your mother while you sleep in the closet… but as far as you know, this is all there is to life. That’s the premise of Room, where a woman is kidnapped at age 17, raped, impregnated, and held in captivity for years after giving birth. She decides to raise her son in a way that makes him ignorant and tolerant of his living conditions. “Room” is all he knows – he’s five years old and he’s never set foot outside the shack he lives in.

Brie Larsen gives a stunning performance as the mom in Room. Possibly the best performance of any 2015 film that I’ve seen so far. She sends her character through the gamut of emotions, all while making it seem effortless. I noticed Larsen’s ability to make her acting seem natural in Trainwreck earlier in 2015, but her performance in Room is a true tour-de-force – and she makes it seem so natural. I’m blown away by Brie Larsen in this movie. Her character took a situation that is undoubtedly terrifying and disgusting – captivity and constant rape – and somehow made it seem like we weren’t really watching a scary movie – just the atmosphere she wants her son to think he lives in. In that way Room reminded me a bit of Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, where a Jewish father in a concentration camp pretends that their situation is a game for the benefit of his son.

Jacob Tremblay also gives a great performance in this movie. Perhaps overshadowed by Larsen’s amazing work, Tremblay offers the best child performance I’ve seen in years.

I don’t believe that it’s a spoiler to mention that the captives in Room eventually escape and a big portion of the movie centers on the son discovering that there’s a world outside of the shack. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this section of the movie – I thought the child’s wonder would be a bit more interesting, but the second half of the movie focuses more on the mother adapting to a life outside of captivity and dealing with the media aspects of being an escaped hostage. Still, I found Room plenty enjoyable and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Room is one of the best films of 2015 – a gritty must see that features an absolute knockout performance from Brie Larsen.

Replay Value: I’m looking forward to watching it again with my wife. I think I could like it more the second time.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: Nominated for four big Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Brie Larsen should be a virtual lock for an Oscar.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)


The Gambler (2014)

May 24, 2015

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larsen, John Goodman, Jessica Lange
Director: Rupert Wyatt (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes)

Bottom Line: “One man, two lives.” More like no life. And there’s very little life in Rupert Wyatt’s remake of 1974’s The Gambler starring James Caan. Mark Wahlberg plays a college literature professor who not only seems to get off on gambling for high stakes, but also on belittling the people that deal the cards. He treats his mother like she’s another loan shark and makes sure his students know they are unimportant in the grand scope of the world. He borrows money liberally and paying it back is of little concern to him – he’d rather borrow more and take a shot with it. And his style of betting is pretty detrimental. If you bet everything you have and then double your bet every time you win, there’s only one possible outcome: eventually you will lose it all. Because of this, there is very little tension during the gambling scenes. You know what’s going to happen and, even worse, you want it to. Because this is a man that no one could possibly ever want to root for. You want a good, tense gambling scene? Watch In America and wait for the family to go the fair.

I find Mark Wahlberg’s acting to be pretty hit or miss and, for me, The Gambler was a miss. Perhaps it’s a function of a weak script, but I had a really hard time taking his character seriously in this movie. The performance pretty much amounts to strutting around with a smirk on his face and acting like he’s better than everyone else. This guy is at rock bottom and you’d never know it if you were an outsider. He asks someone in his class “do I look happy?” and even though the answer is supposed to be an implied no, he actually seems pretty content with his situation. As one character says to him: “you want to lose” and it sure seems true.

As someone that has had gambling and alcohol dominate their life to the point of bottoming out on multiple occasions, The Gambler just didn’t feel very authentic to me. I can relate to the compulsion of gambling my last dollar and I can even relate to borrowing money to gamble while worrying about how I’ll pay it back later. But what I can’t relate to is a man with no glimpse of humanity. There isn’t a second in this film where they show you even a morsel of someone with a soul. I just never got the feeling that he felt the true gravity of his situation or that he even cared. And if he doesn’t care, why should we?

Replay Value: I can’t imagine watching this again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Shut out at the Oscars.

Grade: 4.5/10 (Forgettable/Watchable)