Saturday, October 8, 2011

Animal Kingdom. A

Animal Kingdom is the best movie I never saw last year. The best movie of 2010 was and still is The Ghost Writer, but David Michod's debut feature isn't far behind. Here is the type of small crime movie I love where the criminals are so close to society yet so far from it. In The Godfather, the Corelones were essentially in another world. I saw the movie right after I got back from an exhausting Ultimate practice. I didn't have the energy to do my homework due the next day. Animal Kingdom reinvigorated me and I was able to do the homework just fine. Michod, working from fact-based events, tells the story of a small time crime family headed by an evil mom destined to become something of a legend. Played by Jackie Weaver (she got an Oscar nod for the role), she sits atop her clan and watches with a seemingly innocent air about her. She shows affection more often than anger, love more than hate. Yet we knows she's a vile wretch beneath, and when her sinister ugliness appears, her character takes full shape. The central character is a seventeen year old boy, J, who moves into the crime family after his mom dies from a drug overdose. He's leaving a hard life and entering a harder one. J's conflicted situation (following his family or his conscience) is somewhat familiar. But what makes Animal Kingdom so good are the supporting characters. Jackie Weaver's mom, of course, and Ben Mendelsohn as J's vicious uncle. I also really liked Guy Pierce, playing one of the most admirable movie cops since Louis Jouvet's Inspector Antoine in Quai des Orfevres. Animal Kingdom is relentless yet so restrained. It's violent but not bloody. It's psychological and character-driven, yet is also concerned about telling a really good story. I can't believe I missed this last year.

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