Monday, November 17, 2008

Reservation Road

Reservation Road (Terry George, 2008) [3]

Do we need another film about upper middle class white people and a shattering event that has repercussions for everyone involved? I really don't think so and after seeing Reservation Road, I don't think I want to see one for quite a while. A too overtly mechanical film with listless performances and a turgid storyline create a film that's simply bad. The film centers around a tragic accident and the subsequent effects on the family that lost a son as well as the perpetrator of the accident. George and screenwriter John Burnham Schwartz (who also wrote the novel the film is based on) want to tell a story that focuses on Dwight (Mark Ruffalo), the perpetrator, as an essentially good and trying father who made a bad mistake and is haunted for it. It's meant to put him on the same level as the father of the dead boy (Joaquin Phoenix). The problem is that the film is too heavy-handed in attempting to make them equals. It creates performances out of Ruffalo and Phoenix that are at times ridiculous and other times almost laughable. The mechanics of the story are clunky and ineffective almost directly from the start, making the Learner family picture perfect and showing the flaws in Dwight's family life. Then we get the contrivance of the accident, using a dead child as a means to spurt out a storyline with themes done to death with other films not much better in their mediocrity. More and more contrivances help put the two men on a collision course that never comes to anything satisfying thematically or plot wise. Having never been impressed with George as a director, it comes as no surprise that he can't even get this story off the ground. All in all, Reservation Road never hits any of the marks it wants to and gives me another reason to grow tired of this type of film.

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