Pinterest Flint resident Andrew Watson drops to the floor in tears and a resident holds a jug of contaminated water as Flint police stand guard at the city council chamber doors.
I cannot remember having been jerked around and emotionally manipulated as much as I felt upon leaving the movie theater. Thank heavens the film is populated with an all-star cast on their A-game. The Whole is Lesser Than the Sum of its Parts Despite my strong contempt for this film, the majority of the cast pour their heart and soul into the material that they are given.
McDormand, one of the greatest actresses of all-time, buries herself in the role of Mildred Hayes. McDormand gets a few brief moments to showcase her versatility. She is an actress who will go any lengths to immerse herself in character.
She shows no vanity in an industry that is soaking in self-congratulatory vanity. Harrelson and Rockwell both shine in drawing out nuance and complexity in their roles. Willoughby and Dixon are proof that McDonagh not only fancies their characters more than Mildred Hayes, but that McDonagh is better at writing male characters than getting into the internal psyche of women.
Well for starters, it is either a grossly unfunny dark comedy, or a drama that undercuts its subject matter with misplaced attempts at humor.
The tone and execution of this film is its biggest offense. The majority of humor is not only unfunny, it is cringingly unfunny. Part of the offense goes to the writing and part of the blame goes to editing. It can be done.
The Coen Brothers and Tarantino have consistently infused humor and levity to counter moments of terror, threat, and violence.
One scene, in particular, encapsulates my problems with the film. Charlies is played by the criminally underused John Hawkes. It has been implied that Charlie beat Mildred while they were married, and his entrance stokes the tension and threat of violence.
Her dialogue and character are intended for comic relief, but her character belongs in a different movie. Immediately, Mildred, Charlie, and Robbie pick up the knocked over furniture and resume their conversation like nothing happened. The tension is this scene was palpable. The comic relief was forced, and the entire scene felt disingenuous and was sabotaged.
The violence in the film is horrific and undercuts any claims that the film is a dark or black comedy.
There is one particular scene where I think McDonagh and Gregory successfully switch tones. Mildred Hayes is at the police station being interviewed interrogated? The banter between the two is biting and playful, elusive and ambiguous.
They both freeze in shock and disbelief. Willoughby is apologetic and scared. Mildred is concerned and compassionate.
The tone suddenly shifts from humor and anger to worry and care. It is the best scene in the entire film. Perhaps McDonagh is better at framing a scene that switches from humor to pathos than going from tension to comedy. The profanity felt forced and was distracting.What went wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response is a book by Bernard Lewis.
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