Parkland Press

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Movie Review: A ‘Room’ of their own

Friday, January 29, 2016 by Paul Willistein in Focus

“Room” is an extraordinary film on multiple levels, not the least of which is the performance of Jacob Tremblay, who portrays Jack, a four-year-old boy about to observe his fifth birthday. He and his mother, simply called Ma (Brie Larson), are held hostage in a 10 by 10-foot shed.

Since revealing too much, or much of anything, about “Room” would spoil your viewing of it, this review will concentrate on the performances and production values of “Room.”

While Tremblay, 9, is not up for an Oscar, he deservedly received the Critics’ Choice young actor award Jan. 17 from the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

“Room” has four Oscar nominations: Picture (Ed Guiney), Directing (Lenny Abrahamson), Actress (Larson) and Adapted Screenplay (Emma Donoghue, from her novel).

Larson is considered an Oscar actress award front-runner if not a guaranteed recipient whose closest competition is expected from Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn.”

Larson is de-glammed for the role, so much so that in the early frames, the gritty documentary-style cinematography by Danny Cohen (“The Danish Girl,” 2015; “Les Miserables,” 2012; “The King’s Speech,” 2010) gets so up close and personal, she seems to have pimples on her forehead.

Ma has been kept in a shed for seven years by a captor somewhat reminiscent of the character in “Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Her captor, called Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), holds the code to the lock on the shed’s door. There’s a skylight, a bed, a “wardrobe,” or closet, where Jack sleeps; a table; an electric light; a stove; refrigerator; sink, and a toilet and bathtub.

Jack is apparently the result of her captor forcing himself upon Ma. Jack views things through a boy’s rose-colored glasses. This is symbolized in his daydreaming views of the skylight, brilliantly rendered in Cohen’s camera work. Jack takes to naming things without using the article “the,” hence the film’s title, “Room.” It’s “Good morning, sink,” “rug” and so forth.

Jack sees all, and, it would seem, knows all. He accepts his fate, even seems to like “Room.” It’s all he knows. Ma knows more. The disparagement between the two is bittersweet, tragic and heartbreaking.

The contrast between Jack’s and Ma’s points of view is one of the most fascinating and compelling aspects of “Room.” Ma has frequent outbursts of disagreements with Jack. She has bouts of depression, as one might imagine, wrapping herself under a blanket. She is emotionally-cauterized.

Larson (“Trainwreck,” 2015; TV’s “Community,” 2012-14; “United States of Tara,” 2009-11) plays a not particularly likable female so convincingly you feel uncomfortable when she’s on-screen. She manages moments of glee, but mostly she modulates from sad to depressed to despondent.

Without Tremblay, there would be no “Room.” He is flawless in a guileless performance that can’t but help open your heart to the character he portrays. His growing self-awareness is a revelation. It’s as if “Room” is a space capsule and he’s orbiting the world. Tremblay, in his live-action big-screen lead role debut, is fine young actor.

Noteworthy in supporting roles are William H. Macy as the father of Ma (aka Joy), Joan Allen as her mother, and Tom McCamus as Leo, the mother’s boyfriend. Most memorable is Amanda Brugel as a police officer.

Stephen Rennicks’ understated score embraces the storyline.

“Room” is tough to watch. If not in content, then in tone, it calls up “Girl, Interrupted” (1999) and “Monster” (2003), also films tough to take, and shake.

Abrahamson (“Frank,” 2014) has created a film of effective power and substance. While “Room” is not altogether a pleasant place to be, once you get into “Room,” you won’t want to leave. It’s a profound film. You may never look at a room, or the world outside it, in the same way. Don’t miss it.

“Room,” MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) for language; Genre: Drama; Run time: 1 hr., 58 min.; Distributed by A24.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “Room,” which is set in Ohio, was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Box Office, Jan. 22: As movie-goers in the Mid-Atlantic region stayed home to cope with a historic natural disaster of their own, the Blizzard of 2016 (which dumped a record 31.9 in. on the Lehigh Valley), Leonardo DiCaprio’s history-based natural disaster film, “The Revenant,” an Oscar front-runner with 12 nominations, slipped into No. 1, with $16 million, $119.1 million, five weeks, with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (five Oscar nominations), moving up to No. 2, with $14.2 million, $879.2 million, six weeks; dropping “Ride Along 2” from No. 1 to No. 3, with $12.9 million, $59.1 million, two weeks;

Several films opening failed to win, place or show: 4. “Dirty Grandpa,” $11.5 million; 5. “The Boy,” $11.2 million; 6. “The 5th Wave,” $10.7 million;

7. “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” $9.7 million; $33.4 million, two weeks; 8. “Daddy’s Home,” $5.2 million, $138.7 million, five weeks; 9. “Norm of the North,” $4.1 million, $14.2 million, two weeks; 10. “The Big Short,” $3.5 million, $56.7 million, seven weeks.

Unreel, Jan. 29:

“Kung Fu Panda 3,” PG: Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh co-direct the voice talents of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Jackie Chan in the animation comedy sequel as Po continues his “legendary adventures of awesomeness.”

“The Finest Hours,” PG-13: Craig Gillespie directs Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster in the action-thriller based on a Coast Guard rescue attempt off Cape Cod when two oil tankers were destroyed in a blizzard in 1952.

“Fifty Shades of Black,” R: Michael Tiddes directs Kali Hawk, Marlon Wayans, Jane Seymour and Karli Karissa in the comedy spoof of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

“Jane Got a Gun,” R: Gavin O’Connor directs Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Santoro in the western about a woman trying to save her husband from a gang that wants to kill him.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes