(12A) Dir Todd Field US 2007.
There’s a term called ‘spinach films’, which refers to films you watch because you think they’ll be good for you. This is a prime example, and like spinach, it boils down to very little and leaves a bad taste.
Sarah (Kate Winslet) is a bored mother who meets stay-at-home father Brad (Patrick Wilson) while taking their children to the playground and they begin an affair. Convicted child molester Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) has recently moved into the neighbourhood leading disgraced ex-cop Larry (Noah Emmerich) to mount a campaign against him.
There’s a narrator telling us what people are thinking and a satellite cast of characters reinforcing preconceptions, especially of a cinematic nature. Of course we have to see Winslet’s husband looking at unseemly internet sites so we don’t lose sympathy with her when she has an affair and there’s a shoehorned Madame Bovary allusion to further sanction her infidelity. The paedophile Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley) looks like the stereotypical child molester to the point that they may as well have given him a dirty raincoat and a bag of sweets.
Some critics will revel in the ‘examined themes’ as if it’s a university textbook, but this is nothing like fun to watch. Yes, it’s well acted, with Earle Haley notably good, but while American Beauty and The Ice Storm picked at the threads of suburban frustration, infidelity and the mid-life crisis they did so with some style, wit and elegance – this is just cold, bleak and depressing. And not depressing material that’s pleasurable to consume, like listening to a Joy Division album or watching Platoon, it just sucks the enjoyment out of cinema for close to two and a half hours. If you like spinach it might be for you, but for many it will just make you long for popcorn.
For Time Out, March 2007
For original PDF click here – Timeout Dubai, 0711 2007 _ 074 filmreviews