Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reservation Road. C

'Reservation Road' is an example of some pretty solid material handled very poorly. It has everything going for it: Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, and Mark Ruffalo in leading roles, Terry George, who made the powerful 'Hotel Rwanda,' as the director, and the acclaimed novel of the same name by John Burnham Schwartz as its source. Yet the movie starts to crumble in the opening scenes and then continues to go severely downhill from there. Phoenix and Connelly play Ethan and Grace, a happily married couple who suffer a major blow when their son is killed in a hit-and-run car accident. The man responsible for the death is attorney Dwight Arno (Ruffalo), who keeps his crime concealed in fear of what might happen to him. Ethan wants vengeance and when the police come up short on the case, he takes matters into his own hands and starts conducting his own investigation. The film combines the trepid Arno and his guilt with Ethan's thirst for revenge. Much of the movie focuses on grief, yet it's incredibly melodramatic and even corny at times (especially the scenes involving Connelly and Phoenix arguing over their son's death). It makes you really appreciate a movie like 'Mystic River,' which explored some similar themes of loss, yet never feels fake or histrionic. Another major problem with the picture is how heavily it relies on coincidence (there's one especially preposterous twist that I won't mention). It gets to the point where we can hardly believe any of these characters. One of the things that makes a crime drama great is when the acting doesn't feel forced. It felt very forced in 'Reservation Road.' It seemed like all these talented people were trying to give great performances-a method that always results in artificial mush. to its credit, 'Reservation Road' is entertaining. But that's not enough to save it. There are lots of ways to describe this movie. I'll go with the easiest one: it's simply not very good.

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