Saturday, January 9, 2010

Film Review: Brothers

Brothers (C+)

A mediocre kitchen-sink melodrama that does nothing to distinguish itself and begs the question, “Why remake this film?” I haven’t seen the Danish original, but it’s American counterpart is a flagrant example of lowest-common denominator filmmaking: grab a bunch of pretty Hollywood actors (Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhal, Natalie Portman), toss in a well-respected filmmaker (Jim Sheridan, what were you thinking?), “adapt” (code for “steal”) a lesser known work from outside the States, and Voila! - a movie that dissipates from the fabric of your consciousness the moment it ends.

Only it doesn’t quite. Because neither the histrionics on display by Maguire nor the polished sheen of Hollywood realism that dilutes the rawness inherent in the source material nor the litany of clichés that pile up during the film’s progression can stop one of the most remarkable performances that I can ever remember in my life. Bailee Madison, all of 10 years old, stars as Isabelle Cahill, oldest daughter of Maguire and Portman’s characters, and she brings the house down. This girl can flat-out act, and she demonstrates such naturalism that the others in the film could learn a thing or two from her in terms of her vocal control, her facial expressions, her total immersion into her character’s persona, that of a child whose world has been torn down, then reconstructed, and finally obliterated by familial dysfunction and a childish myopia. Ms. Madison should be nominated for a supporting actress award and in a perfect world she would win. However, since the Academy doesn’t extend an olive branch much to newcomers unless the role is a bit flashier than a child coping with domestic upheaval (see Anna Paquin’s role in The Piano or Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whalerider), Ms. Madison doesn’t stand a chance. And I think just maybe this omission, this oversight will no doubt be fortuitous because if the girl is this talented as this young an age, I can only imagine where she’ll go from here. No need to bestow upon her a marketing award; let this kid be free to be explore her creative strengths because after the performance she gave in Brothers, she is one of the most talented people the cinema currently has to offer.

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