Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Nog Watches "Three of the Greatest Actors of Our Generation" in Brothers!
I found Brothers compelling and intense while I was watching, but it didn't really resonate for me afterwards. However, as an old-fashioned acting showcase (starring, according to one of its trailers, "three of the greatest actors of our generation"), it's mostly enjoyable. Tobey Maguire pretty successfully transcends his geeky, Peter Parker/Spiderman image as Sam, a damaged, unstable veteran of Afghanistan, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman share some nice, natural moments together as Sam's brother and wife, who bond while Sam is believed dead at war. I think the film wants to say something very complex about identity (and perhaps the original Dutch film did? yes, this is a remake), but the ideas don't feel completely coherent. We certainly see a reversal of identity between the two brothers, as the "nice" brother Sam is forced to become cruel at war while the "bad" brother, Tommy, assumes the unfamiliar role of stand-in father and husband. But there's a more interesting idea at work regarding Sam that never fully gets off the ground: it seems that war not only changes him, but literally remakes him (his family simply does not know him upon his return). Ultimately, there's nothing here in terms of substance we haven't seen done better in films like Coming Home or even the more recently (unfairly neglected) In the Valley of Elah, but I'd say the actors make it worth a look (and director Jim Sheridan coaxes incredible performances out of Sam's two young daughters: perhaps they'll go on to become the "greatest actors" of their generation!).