We Need To Talk About Kevin

We Need To Talk About Kevin is a film by writer/director Lynne Ramsay. The film boasts an impressive cast that includes Academy Award Winning actress Tilda Swinton and actor John C. Reilly Kevin’s parents. Kevin as an adult is played by newcomer Ezra Miller and the childhood versions of Kevin are played by Jasper Newell and Rock Duer.

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin is the story of a mother named Eva (Tilda Swinton) who never wished for motherhood and the shocking effect that those emotions have on her son Kevin (Ezra Miller). Kevin comes out of his mother’s womb hating his mother and crying all of the time long after he is brought home from the hospital. As Kevin ages he finds ways to upset his mother. One example that comes to mind is a scene where toddler Kevin (Jasper Newell) poops in his diaper which his mother changes cheerfully and then Kevin urinates in the fresh diaper just to upset his mother. Kevin is an entirely different and happy child around his father Franklin (John C. Reilly). Eva often attempts to communicate to Franklin that Kevin feels and acts out hatred towards her. The attempts fall on deaf ears though as Franklin cannot see anything negative about his perfect son. Kevin’s resentment of his mother and affinity for acts of mild cruelty leads to an unsettling event that causes Eva to basically become both numb and dead inside.

 

We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of the most intense films I’ve seen in 2012. I found Kevin’s level of cruelty towards his mother unsettling and disturbing. Tilda Swinton portrays Eva as someone who does the best she can to be a tolerant and supportive mother to her child while facing opposition at every turn from the person she is supposed to love and protect. Most of the film sees Swinton wear a weathered deaden expression on her face due to the level of stress parenting Kevin has brought upon her. This film is Tilda Swinton’s most powerful and restrained performance yet. Ezra Miller and the two child actors who play younger versions of Kevin do very solid work as antagonists to Swinton’s supportive and understanding Eva. The only negative performance in this film comes from John C. Reilly. I found his performance to be ordinary and boring.

 

Lynne Ramsay loves using the color red in this film. Red symbolizes a number of things in this movie but I cannot explain why. This film is best watched at The Art Theater. When I went to the screening the entire theater was dead silent. I love when movies cause complete silence in an audience. I loved the flashbacks in the film because not only so they inform the viewer of Eva’s variously depressed and happy emotional states.

 

This film is not for the faint of heart. There are minor intense scenes of violence and strong language. We Need To Talk About Kevin will be stirring in your brain long after the credits roll. This film is a disturbing portrait of motherhood that can move the most cynical people with its premise and its engaging performances.

 

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21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Schimdt and Jenko.  Two guys who were polar opposites in high school.  Schmidt was a geek and Jenko was a jock.  The two cross paths again when they meet at the police academy.  Jenko is horrible with math so Schmidt offers to help him pass his exams in exchange for help from Jenko to become physically fit and a top shot with a gun.  The two become friends and pass their exams and then botch their very first arrest by forgetting to read the criminal his miranda rights.  The mistake costs the two friends dearly as they are transferred to the 21 Jump Street program.  This program forces younger looking officers to go undercover in high schools to stop major crimes from being committed.

The main positive of 21 Jump Street is the chemistry between Hill and Tatum as friends.  You believe the way they support each other and knock each other down throughout the film.  They get into scrapes trying to keep their true identities hidden from their high school classmates.  I love how both characters not only work together but eventually become like brothers to each other.  Supporting characters that provide humor are Captain Dickson played by Ice Cube and Mr. Walters played by Rob Riggle.

21 Jump Street works as comedic departure from the 80’s teen cop drama it is based on because most of the humor in the film refers to stereotypes of the teen dramas or comedies you can currently find in movies and television.  For example, Schmidt and Jenko look considerably older than the high school students they are supposed to portray.  Comments from Mr. Walters about the two main characters hitting puberty early are made as well as other jokes made by students about the car Schmidt drives to school.  The film is smart because it does not just utilize referential humor it also plays with audiences expectations during action scenes.  If a motorcycle or car crashes into a gasoline tank, it’s expected to explode.  In some very funny cases the explosions don’t occur and its hilarious that nothing happens.

The major negative of 21 Jump Street is that no one catches on to the fact that Schmidt and Jenko are police officers throughout the film.  To me, it would seem incredibly obvious that those two students are actually officers of the law.  This gripe is minor though and doesn’t hinder the film from being a great time at the movies.  21 Jump Street also includes cameos from the original leads of the 80’s television series.  Yes ladies that means you get to see Johnny Depp in the film.  I think that the cameos were used at the appropriate times and gave a clever if succinct homage to the television series the film is based on.  I would have liked to see a scene in the film where the original cast and the film’s two leads bonded over the difficult nature of working undercover but the film does fine without it.

21 Jump Street is a police program I’d be happy to see again if a sequel is made.

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Good Deeds

Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds is the latest effort from writer, director, and actor Tyler Perry.  Tyler Perry gained notoriety and fame in Hollywood because he created a character named Mabel Simmons.  Madea as she prefers to be called is a gun toting religious woman who takes crap from no one.  This character is popular with audiences because of the positive moral messages that come from watching her stories on stage and screen.  Tyler Perry takes the opportunity in Goods Deeds to step out of that role and play a character more closely resembling himself.   This venture to try and do something new is what drew my interest to the film, but its success is too dependent on Perry’s moral message when the story needs to be the films true focus.

Tyler Perry stars as Wesley Deeds.  Wesley is a hard working CEO with the perfect life.  He was groomed by his father to be an excellent business man and taught by his mother to be a gentleman.  Wesley has always been the man other people need to be especially in the eyes of his mother, brother, and girlfriend.  Wesley is predictable right down to the tie he wears in the morning before he goes to work.  One morning Wesley has a difficult run in with a woman named Lindsey Wakefield and her daughter Ariel.  Lindsey’s life is full of problems.  Lindsey was evicted from her home with her belongings left for the homeless to pick through.  Wesley realizes early on in the film that this woman is in distress and offers to help.  Lindsey is incapable of accepting charity throughout most of the films first act.  Of course eventually Wesley and Lindsey start to change each other’s lives in various ways.  Lindsey seems to be the only one capable of noticing the level of stress Wesley constantly puts on himself as a result of running his father’s company and Wesley sees how much one woman’s struggle with living opens his life up to living for himself and doing good for others.

The problem with this film is the same problem the lead of the film has, it’s predictable.  I was shocked by the fact that the opening narration tells you everything you need to know about the film.  There are no surprises and everything happens as you expect it would.  The flaws that Lindsey and Wesley have are not flaws that are uncommon and thus the growth you expect to occur will occur naturally in the story’s progression.  In other words, you know when characters will evolve or change and there is no room for characters to make mistakes or bad choices.  I found I was aching for some variety in how Wesley or Lindsey handled situations in their lives and it was never given to me.  I was bored by this film but only because I saw everything coming.  The fact that this film has a message and a purpose beyond just entertaining its audience is the only thing that keeps it from being ordinary.
In terms of the acting Tyler Perry played a stripped down version of himself which I had no real issue with.  The actress whose performance presented a problem for me was Thandie Newton.  Her performance constantly came off to me as a bitter black woman who had given up on the world because she was hit with horrible circumstances.  I have never come across a character that looked and felt so defeated.  Thandie’s performance of her character felt overplayed to me.  She was selling me too much bitterness and that was a major turn off and significantly decreased the level of sympathy I felt for her character throughout this film’s two hour run time.  Phylicia Rashad has a memorable turn as Wesley’s mother Wilimena.  She isn’t a domineering mother as one might expect.  She really just wants what’s best for her sons.  Wesley’s alcoholic brother Walter is the closest we get to an actual villain in this film.  He wants the position his brother occupies and the conversations between Walter and Wesley are some of the film’s most tense moments.

Good Deeds is not a good film.  It’s overly preachy and predictable but its positive message makes for a tolerable variation in Hollywood’s cycle that constantly churns out uninventive cliché films.

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