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Archive for October, 2005

A History of Violence

Let me just say first off, that no matter what my opinions of the rest of the movie is, I hate the way they casted the daughter. I didn’t like the separation between her and her brother, and I think she was one of the least convincing child actresses I’ve ever seen.

David Cronenberg, who’s films have a history of violence, here is trying to create something out of the ordinary for him, but extremely ordinary for everyone else, at least after the intro scene. We find the film starting with two cold-blooded murderers killing a country motel’s staff. When one has to go back inside for some water, the daughter of the maid is standing there crying, and when the gun goes off to kill her, we cut to the aforementioned daughter, who is living throughout the film.

Viggo Mortensen comes in to comfort her, because she’s had a nightmare. Completely believable as he tries to convince her there’s no such things as monsters, but all the sudden the rest of the family decides to comfort her as well. And that’s when we realize that the director wants us to believe this family is the quintessential middle American family. They eat breakfast together, drive to school and work together. Viggo’s character Tom Stall owns a diner in the middle of Generic Small Town, USA. His wife works, but we’re not really sure what she does [the movie later makes reference to her being a lawyer].

On this day, Edie Stall [Tom’s wife, played by Maria Bello] drops Tom off at work. While they are going about their simple, small-town routines, Jack, their son is making the game-saving catch for the recess baseball game. This pisses the main jock off, so he threatens Jack in the locker room later on. He makes a typical skinny-guy witty comment, and crowd laughs, and the jock walks away, still pissed. Duh duh duh, subplot number one. Cut back to Tom, and he’s getting ready to shut down the diner for the night.

After this day of work, his wife picks him up. He asks her where she’s taking him, and she answers by telling him where the kids are. He smiles, and asks where they are going again. This leads into one of the most intimate, and weird sex scenes I’ve seen. While nothing is revealed along the lines of other R rated movies, I would venture to say this sex scene is a lot more worse than most you’ll see in movies. Strong enough, that I wouldn’t recommend the movie if you’re offended by things of that nature.

So once we’ve been convinced that the Stalls are your most typical middle-American small-town family, with nothing to hide, it’s time to be thrown a curveball. Only, Cronenberg masterfully reveals it, because even though you know what’s coming, you never are sure until it happens. He keeps a good mix of predictability and surprise all throughout the movie.

The biggest controversy I could find in the movie, was the ending. Once the problems in the movie have been solved, the future of the family is left in question. Will Tom and Edie work things out? Will Tom be able to be a good father to Jack? You begin to think this is the real question of the movie, and then the credits roll, and these questions are completely unanswered. It pissed off most of the audience in the showing I went to.

But I find that Cronenberg explores the questions he has, and leaves the ones he doesn’t care about unanswered. He spends so much time in the beginning of the film proving that the Stalls are so normal, only to shatter that as the film continues [the film’s title lets you know more than I’m telling you, so I’m not giving away key plot points]. If you pay attention to the way the plot develops, you realize that normalcy will never return to this family, so if the director were to try and answer the questions you are left with, the film would become a family drama, instead of a compelling exploration of violence’s effects on family, and our inability to escape our past.

Upon re-examination of my thoughts on the film, I enjoyed it. It’s a new take on the idea of people running from their past, and it does a good job at looking at violence’s effect on family, in many different ways. 4 out of 5 thumbs up.

But I still hate the way they cast the daughter.

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