- I feel like the title of this movie is seriously misleading because it almost has absolutely nothing to do with two brothers. The story is really about Natalie Portman’s character, Grace, and her navigating the tumult of emotions (and sometimes lack thereof) surrounding the death of a spouse, the increased importance of family, the shared experiences of fellow army wives, etc. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Tommy (seriously?), is conveniently released from prison on the eve of his brother Sam’s next mission to Afghanistan, but that Tommy and Sam are brothers is kind of incidental and not presented in a way that’s all that interesting in the story. Tommy could be anyone, really; he comes on the scene as this estranged uncle, but he could ultimately be just a close family friend or anyone else willing to step in and provide company to Grace and her daughters while her husband is away. There’s not enough to go on about Sam’s and Tommy’s shared history beyond an ineptly fleshed out family dynamic of the Good Son, the Disappointment, the Military Father, and the Dead Mother. We get random silly pieces of information (“Your father saved me in that water when we were kids, you know that?”) that’s supposed to establish a pre-existing but now-strained bond, but it never comes together. By the time we get to Sam running around on the front lawn waving a gun with Tommy yelling “We’re brothers!!!1″, you really just don’t believe them.
- Also, this movie gets the award for the most hilariously over-dramatic trailer editing ever. The second half of it is totally built like your standard thriller (watch as the increasingly dramatic clips get cut shorter and shorter with a crescendo of music playing over top!) and every clip makes it look like something truly awful is going to happen next… but you’ll only find out if you see the movie. Nearly every one of those scenes is followed not by something more dramatic (DOES HE SHOOT HIMSELF IN THE HEAD?!) but by something overly calming or a moment of clarity. It’s kind of hilarious.
- Natalie Portman played Grace like Padme Amidala in nearly every scene where she had to comfort emotionally conflicted Tobey Maguire, who in turn bore a scary hilarious resemblance to poor pouting Anakin Skywalker after he kills all the sand people (AND NOT JUST THE MEN, BUT THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN TOO!). We shouldn’t be surprised, of course, since there is lots of sand in Afghanistan and we all know that sand is rough and coarse and irritating and it gets everywhere.
- They never say what Tommy was in prison for but allude to it a couple of times. It’s obviously a violent act of some kind towards some poor woman and, maybe it’s just me, but maybe this is someone you don’t want around your kids. I feel like we’re supposed to hate that Grace hates Tommy but I feel like she definitely had good reason for it. Evidently he’s now rehabilitated and of no danger to anyone, but something about it remains skeevy to me.
- I had a great love for the children in this movie, especially the kid who played Isabelle. I mentioned when I saw Where the Wild Things Are that I thought Max Records did an amazing job portraying those intense feelings of despair and anger, and this kid was even better than that. Even in moments where she could have crossed the line into Creepy Horror Movie Kid territory, she really held it together and completely dominated the scene. That aside, I thought that the kids were written in a way that they were believable kids in both their actions and language. They felt natural.
- It’s actually nice to see someone with PTSD at an actual VA hospital.
- I am rather fond of this poster, though. I like the line that cuts Natalie Portman in half, that’s what makes it work for me. (Yes, I know this is the point.)
- Carey Mulligan is in this for about two minutes and I’m pretty sure she got edited into the main opening credits in anticipation of all the Oscar buzz she’s getting for An Education. (Speaking of which, go see that movie instead of this one.)
Categories: 2 Stars