Saturday, December 31, 2016
It Took Me Several Days To Process This Film!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK. Let's talk about "Manchester By The Sea."
It is a very good movie, but not, as I was expecting to write, the Movie Of The Year. There is something in Kenneth Lonergan's writing that holds it back from this distinction I was expecting to list is as.
Or maybe I was over warned. Everyone told me that, with my sensitive nature, I should not see this film alone. I did not, though, while the film is truly haunting and wrenching, forcing me to examine issues in my own past life, I did not emerge from the screening a sobbing mess. Though the film is undeniably impacting.
Almost everyone knows by now that things start with Lee Chandler, (Casey Affleck) forced by the tragic death of his brother, Joseph (Kyle Chandler) to take care of his teen aged nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). True enough, but also true, as I had been warned, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Manchester By The Sea" may not be the Film Of The Year, but it IS the Best Acted Film Of The Year. Lonergan's direction surpasses his writing, offering up an ensemble cast where every major character stands out; none more so than the acting pas de deux between Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges,
Mr. Affleck, nice to look at, and whom I always considered a better actor than his full-of-himself brother, Ben, fulfills all that promise with an extremely internalized performance of the type men rarely get to do. He digs so deep into Lee's pain, sometimes only visible in his face, that it seems to transfer itself to the audience. I am as different from Lee as they come, but Affleck made me feel what Lee is going through. It is not comfortable.
Lucas Hedges is a fine young man. Here, he fulfills the promise displayed when he portrayed Richie in "The Slap." Patrick is as different from Richie as they come, but Mr. Hedges burrows deep, showing his bravado belies a lot of pain. These two care about each other so much, but they are also very much alike, which is why the resolution that is reached takes place.
As for Michelle Williams, my only criticism is she not being in the film enough. Her big scene is heartbreaking, but her earlier scenes have a comic amusement to them that reveal how in love she and Lee were--and probably still are. It was plain to me she is as pained as Lee, and while her moving on may at first seem cold, when you see her with her husband, it is apparent that all of it is a distraction--one that certainly will not last. She is just as damaged as Lee. She is just not dealing with it well. But neither as Lee.
C.J. Wilson's performance as George, Joe's friend, should not be overlooked, as it gives the film its moments of warmth and empathy. Wilson's work conveys an understanding of both Lee and Patrick they don't yet have themselves, and he is the touching and grounding force that centers this film, emotionally, when it runs the danger of going awry. Which it does not.
So, what is it about the writing that does not work. Not enough background on Michelle's character, nor forcing us to conclude about Gretchen Mol's, rather than confirming our suspicions about her--that she is a dry drunk and not out of her woods, yet.
But, then the film might have run over three hours. At two hours and seventeen minutes, it is so absorbing, the actors so engaging that the time spins by. Kenneth
Lonergan might have known what he was doing, after all. The film forces audiences to think, gives each actor a big, emotional moment, (just like the playwright Lonergan is!!!!!!!) rather than draw things out tediously by doing the work for viewers. At first, I disagreed, but, in retrospect, I think this is what Longergan intended, and I think he was right, after all!!!!!!!!!!!
Besides being the Best Acted Film Of The Year, this is also the Most Visually Beautiful Film Of The Year, incorporating stunning sea vistas--the one opening the film is breathtaking and mood setting--and various styles of music, much of it Celtic and spiritual in nature. Aside from all this, I learned never to set foot inside a New England bar.
"Manchester By The Sea" may also be the year's Most Difficult Film To Sit Through," but it deserves to be seen.
And keep your eyes on Casey and Lucas. Two portrayals destined to pass the test of time.