Archive for Matt Damon

Screened In Sundays: Margaret

Posted in Drama, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

Director Kenneth Lonergan’s film has taken a long, arduous road to get into viewers’ homes, but it’s now finally available to the public. Shot back in 2005, the studios and filmmakers squabbled over god knows what, which prevented the film from ever getting a wide release. This is surprising because of its star studded cast. Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin.

A pre-True Blood Anna Paquin plays the lead character of Lisa. Seemingly just an innocent bystander, Lisa witnesses a bus accident that ends a woman’s life. The movie goes down many different paths after the accident, but the story mainly focuses on Lisa’s struggle to make things right after she feels responsible for causing the accident. The biggest problem with this? Lisa is annoying as hell. And spoiled. And whiny. And self righteous. And just – ugh. She comes across as very unsympathetic as she makes everything that happens throughout the film about her.

While most movies could not survive such a grating protagonist, Margaret somehow manages to be interesting in every scene. This is kind of remarkable considering the movie is a 2 1/2 hour tale about a teenage girl’s struggles with her past, her family, her friends, and herself. The editing is often peculiar – scenes cut back and forth with no real rhythm or cohesion – which screams studio interference. Apparently, Lonergan originally wanted a 3 hour cut so I’m sure many characters’ arcs were either cut down or cut out completely (e.g. Broderick’s).

While Margaret is by no means a perfect film and is actually quite flawed, I couldn’t help but be sucked into every scene. The acting is superb on every level and the articulate dialogue kept my attention. A film that makes you question your personal views on life and death is always worth a watch.

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Movie Review: Steinfeld’s Mattie Ross the one with “True Grit”

Posted in Drama, Movie Review with tags , , , , , , on December 30, 2010 by judsonw

After 2007’s semi modern day Western masterpiece No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers release a true Western three years later in the form of a remake of the John Wayne 1969 classic. Is it as memorable, thrilling, and perfect as that film? Well, no. But that doesn’t mean True Grit isn’t an entirely entertaining romp at the movies. While No Country was a film that is still being dissected and discussed today, True Grit isn’t something that will keep you thinking and guessing for days after. It’s a fairly simple story that is told straightforward with a few Coen flourishes here and there. We follow Mattie Ross (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld), a feisty 14 year old girl who is determined to bring her daddy’s killer to justice. Since she’s still a pigtail wearing preteen, she decides to hire a U.S. Marshal named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who she’s heard is a man who has “true grit.” Along for the journey is a Texas Ranger named LaBeouf (la-beef) played by Matt Damon.

When looking at the cast list for this movie, you can’t help but get excited for the headliners: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin (as killer Tom Chaney). So it’s suprising that after seeing the film, it’s none of these men that leave the greatest impression. That honor goes to newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who not only holds her own against these veteran actors, but pretty much carries the film on her small shoulders. No matter what the advertising for this film wants you to believe, Mattie Ross is the main character through and through. She is the first character we see in the film and the last, and Steinfeld simply pulls the film together. A combination of wit, snark, and intelligence, she ran the risk of coming across as just another annoying child actor reading big words off a script. However, everything Steinfeld does and says on screen seems entirely natural that’s it’s hard to believe she was only 13 years old during filming.

While Steinfeld is the clear star here, Bridges and Damon both give one of the best performances of their respective careers. Bridges is the perfect blubbering drunk as Cogburn and comes across as both pathetic and entirely likeable. He’s such a convincing drunk that I could barely make out what he was saying through his mumblings. The addition of subtitles for his character would not only have made it clearer but it would have added another level of hilarity to an already surprisingly humorous film. Damon and Brolin are both incredible in their respective roles, with Damon’s Texas Ranger acting as an effective villian and hero simultaneously. Though Damon’s performance is bona-fide awesome, I had some problems with the development of his character LaBeouf as I felt he transformed from mean baddie into warm, snuggly father figure far too quickly.

Though I was expecting something more “life changing” like No Country, I still thoroughly enjoyed True Grit. However, don’t go in expecting a modern re-envisioning of a Western. This is a true Western all the way from the costumes to the dialogue. Visually, it’s a beautiful feat of filmmaking. Cinematographer Roger Deakins knocks it out of the park once again, the highlight being a gorgeous horse ride across the vast dark plains of the old West toward the end of the film. While I didn’t leave the film obsessing over little details or marveling at the deepness of the story, I did feel a sense of discovery in Steinfeld’s performance. Forget Bridges’ mumbling Cogburn, Mattie Ross is the only character with true grit. Rooster and LaBeouf, along with the film itself, wouldn’t be a success without her.

B+