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In the Bedroom

Starring Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson; Nick Stahl, William Mapother, William Wise, Celia Weston, Marisa Tomei
Screenplay by Rob Festinger and Todd Field
Based on a story by Andre Dubus
Directed by Todd Field
website: www.miramax.com

IN SHORT: Interminable. Intolerable (and that being said it's a first rate arthouse film). [Rated R for some violence and language. 130 minutes]

There is action and there is reaction. There are acting teachers that we've had tell us, once upon a time and two or three careers back, that all acting is about reaction. That may very well be but we would prefer that, in a movie that runs two hours twenty minutes, some of that action occur on the screen in front of our bleary eyes. That is not the case in actor Todd Field's first film, In The Bedroom, which tosses its main plot shocker at you as an off-camera sound effect and then makes you wait about another two hours before deigning to offer up a thankful bit of emotionally satisfying stuff to end the film. We know "thankful" is the right word because by then we were bored into a near coma state and we thanked God for finally giving the movie some motion.

We have never seen so many heads drop down to check out what the glow in the darks on the wrist were telling (us) than in any screening we've been in during the last five years. Maybe six. That being said we fully understand why the film students who flock to festivals like Sundance have lauded In the Bedroom with all the acclaim they can muster. The performances are all first rate, which is to be expected when a director speaks the language of Acting. But if you expect anything out of your two plus hours in the dark besides emotional explorations of our moral compass, you won't get it.

Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife Ruth (Sissy Spacek) are throwing a summer barbecue at which sole son Frank (Nick Stahl) is actively displaying his summer romance. She is Natalie (Marisa Tomei), an older single mother of two who is not quite divorced from Richard Strout (William Mapother), whose family runs the town of Camden, Maine. All slice of life and very nice. For Frank, Natalie is someone to keep the pipes greased before he heads off to study architecture at Harvard in the fall. He could change his mind and he would, if Natalie would let him but there's that not quite ex-husband to deal with.

At that point you are about half an hour in. We won't tell you about what happens because, well, it's the only thing that happens for the next two (give or take) hours.

When that matter is taken care of, Matt and Ruth are left to deal with the consequences. Then, for Matt to react to how Ruth deals and for Ruth to react to how Matt reacts to how Ruth reacts. And Ruth to Natalie and everyone to Richard. What writer/director Todd Field has penned is a stage play for the screen. Every scene ends with a blackout and every scene is reactive. Those that could be proactive, specifically a trial sequence with a cameo appearance by Karen Allen, aren't.

There is low key and there is "make it as close to real life as possible" that only a film student could love. Only a film student thinking studio exec would let a first time director take a short story and blow it up to the length that 1000 page novels are usually condensed to. But it happened and it is an interminable sit.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to In The Bedroom, he would have paid . . .

$1.00

Film students will give it a perfect Nine. We're sticking by our guns; Ultra-realism is not a good thing. Real life is boring, even if you have great distractions to keep you occupied. Hell, we broke our neck and our life would bore you silly. So does In The Bedroom.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.