Review by Michael Jacobson
Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgewick, Eve, Mos Def, David Alan Grier, Michael
Shannon, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Nicole Kassell
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85
Studio: New Market Films
Features: See Review
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: April 12, 2005
will I be normal?"
a most unconventional film in more ways than one, beginning with its taboo
subject matter of making a pedophile the lead character.
It's a movie that constantly suggests it's tipping its hand, by making
you think you know how events will unfold, but it never follows the easiest or
most logical path.
a movie lover, I appreciate the many risks the filmmakers took with their style
and content. As a human being, I
couldn't help but feel revulsion for what it had to show me.
But make no mistake, that's a big part of the point.
Even less so than Monster, this is a picture that doesn't invite
its audience to have sympathy for someone who commits unspeakable acts.
fact that we don't turn away when we ordinarily might is a testament to the
courageous performance of Kevin Bacon in the lead. I've long considered him one of our more under-appreciated
actors, and he proves it here by completely delving into the kind of stigmatized
role where, in a quietly tortured bit of acting, dares to become the kind of guy
that most filmgoers would instinctively revile, more so than some of the
flamboyantly bad and shallow villains that the cinema tends to throw at us.
picture opens with Walter (Bacon) emerging from prison after twelve years.
We don't know right away what he did, but of course, the movie ads have
let us know...he molested young girls. He's
beginning the near-impossible course of trying to lead a normal life.
He gets a job, rents an apartment (uncomfortably close to an elementary
school), tries to make contact with his family though only his brother-in-law (Bratt)
will see him, and has therapy sessions where he expresses his desire to be
is essentially a thorough and unflinching character study.
The movie has plot points, but doesn't attempt to connect through them in
search of an ending the way we've been trained to expect.
He takes up with a woman (Bacon's real-life spouse Sedgewick), and we
wonder if Walter's past will eventually destroy his chance at a life with her. He begins to notice a guy watching the kids at school, and
recognizes from his own experience the workings of a pedophile mind, and we
think maybe Walter will be the key to help the cops bust him.
Then when a detective (Def) starts nosing around Walter's life and
informing him that kids are being assaulted nearby, we figure Walter will end up
taking the rap because of his past, whether he's guilty or not.
the biggest loop the picture throws us is that it's not even the standard tale
of redemption. We figure the only
reason to give us this kind of character is to show how love and understanding
can humanize a monster, but as I mentioned, the film is unflinching.
One of the starkest scenes in recent memory involves a dialogue between
Walter and a young girl bird watcher alone on a bench in the park.
I don't want to delve into the details, but suffice to say, the movie
hadn't made a false step up to that point, and it didn't start taking them then.
movie took a lot of chutzpah on the part of everyone involved.
They must have known they were crafting a picture that would be
off-putting to a lot of people and would probably not make a lot of money nor be
showered with accolades from awards bodies that would find it easier to ignore
rather than acknowledge the uncomfortable subject matter.
Kevin Bacon could have easily earned an Oscar nod for his work here, but
it was obviously much safer for the Academy not to call attention to the movie.
I find recommending The Woodsman with trepidation, admiring the film as
an original, well-acted drama but not really liking the experience of the world
it brought me into for 90 minutes. You
may have to do some soul searching before you pick this one up.
All I can say in the end is, don't be put off by the idea that a movie
tries to make you feel sorry for a child molester.
It doesn't. There is no
glossing over the ugliness of the crime; merely an exploration of a character
who is what he is and how he goes about dealing with it from day to day.
a fairly low budget film, and as such, has the look of one.
Some noticeable grain and occasional lack of definition betray that not
all first-rate equipment was used. I
think the dingier look is kind of serviceable, though, given the film's subject
matter. Perfectly watchable, to be sure, but far from a knockout.
Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks to choose from, there are no complaints in the
audio department. Despite being a
dialogue-oriented film, what really brings the sound to life is Nathan Larson's
intriguing, percussive music which brings both front and rear stages to life in
an eerie, ambient way that also lends some dynamic range to the proceedings.
extras include an informative commentary track from director Nicole Kassell,
three deleted or extended scenes, the trailer, some bonus previews, and a
making-of featurette that focuses on producer Lee Daniels.
Not necessarily a bad package, but I would have liked to have heard more
from Kevin Bacon or some of the other stars.