Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sneaky Brothers

Warning: Spoilers ahead in the post and comments.

FL and I got a chance to see a screening of the Jake Gyllenhaal movie Brothers last night. FL had seen the original, and we both have seen the many clips and trailers Lionsgate has unleashed over the past month or so. But I think we were both still surprised by the movie and Jake's performance, as well as Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.

You could sense it from the clips we've seen, and it's true: This is a new and different Jake on screen. He's the charming rogue, but he's also a selfish jerk who finds out he can be selfless. He's definitely a damaged soul, someone who doesn't know how to cope with his feelings or his family. But he knows one thing - he loves his brother.

While I didn't buy Tobey's performance fully, he and Jake do a great job of establishing a fraternal rapport.

Jake and Natalie have a very easy, natural chemistry. Believable both as antagonists and as kindred spirits/lost souls.

Jake is amazing with the kids. It's so much fun to watch Tommy evolve from the very grumpy near-stranger to favorite uncle.

Some of the tensest and most effective scenes involve Jake and Sam Shepard, who plays his father. Simmering resentments and anger come to the surface a few times and, as in most families, get buried again.

Mare Winningham has a pretty thankless role, but this scene with Jake was one of the most moving for me. (Spoiler warning: Jake has just found out that Sam's dead and has left Grace and walked to his parents' house, but he doesn't go in. We just see him on the steps, and Elsie, his step-mother, tells him to come inside. Tommy doesn't move and simply says, "I just needed to sit down.")

Oh, and yes, this scene is in the movie :)

If you're worried that the trailers and clips gave too much away, don't be. You probably have seen a lot, but there are pieces of dialogue and action that fill in many of those scenes. I did not find the movie less affecting for having been semi-spoiled.

It's not a perfect movie. As some critics have noted, the Afghanistan sequences don't quite fit with the rest of the movie. that could be a good thing, since Sam Cahill doesn't fit with the family when he returns. But that's not quite the reason they don't work.

But it is a very good movie, I think. The audience laughed and gasped and cheered and seemed very involved and very moved. Jim Sheridan does have a way with families. All of the performers are good. David Letterman said there wasn't a false note in the movie. I might have sensed one or two, but they didn't detract from the overall song.

And Jake? He's funny and fierce and sad and sexy. Vulnerable and vicious. It's a great performance, and I can't wait to see it again and for all of you to see it, too!

Okay, that's my latenight, semi-coherent review. Please feel free to ask questions and, as always, post any interviews or reviews of note.


UltraViolet said...

A few links before I go to sleep. Another short audio clip. Jake discusses working with Jim Sheridan.

Some reviews: The Village Voice hated it. Jake is spared by barely being mentioned.

Reel Reviews loved it, as did Cleveland Scene Weekly:

Gyllenhaal, as the brother left to clean up the mess, again proves he's one of the finest actors working today, with a turn that flirts with many levels of melodrama but always stays at a realistic keel. When he reminds Sam at various stages, "I'm your brother," he delivers it fully loaded with subtext — sometimes as comfort, other times as an accusation.

Maguire and Portman were both blessed with preternatural emotive ability at an early age but have struggled to play adults. Here Portman takes a step toward believability as a parent, while Maguire chews up the screen as the proud offspring of a military man. Maguire's presence, whether trance-like, hesitantly warm or explosively dangerous, fills every room he enters.

Unfortunately, the AP review was not so kind. Not that he's anymore influential, but this review will keep turning up on different sites, so it's annoying.

UltraViolet said...

An interesting quote form Jake about the "teen drug smuggler" who got a role in Brothers, from this article on Natalie Portman:

Portman’s not the only one who did her homework for her role in Brothers. While Tobey Maguire engaged in rigorous training exercises with the Army National Guard (and dropped a staggering 20 pounds to effectively portray an emaciated prisoner of war), Jake Gyllenhaal visited juvenile halls, becoming acquainted with an inspiring young man who eventually scored a spot in the film. “I brought him to Jim (Sheridan) who said, ‘This boy’s an actor,’” Gyllenhaal recalls. “He’s in a helicopter scene with Tobey.”

Also, from twitter - not sure what this means, if anything, about the status of LaOD:

At wrap party for Jake gylenhaal and Anne Hathaway movie love and drugs. Sick.

agent_krycek said...

Glad you enjoyed it, quick question please.

I'm attempting to do this without spoiling - My main problem with the original was I never really got how long Tobey's character had been gone, how desperate he was, that he got to the point where things evolved in Afganistan as they did (attempting to be vague, but hopefully you get what I mean). Is there more of a sense of the time passed in this version?

Kendra said...

very good review, you're lucky of having seen the screening, UV :)

bobbyanna said...

I'm so glad the two of you got to see it! Given your perspective,I trust your reviews most! I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward.

Sounds as if Jake's skills and his range were really on display. I am so, so happy for him. The praise is pretty much unanimous!To stand out in a generally well received movie is pretty impressive.

I remember some interview Natalie was asked that "greatest actors of our generation" question, and she said, "Yeah. Well, Jake is."

(AP wire generally sucks, and yes, unfortunately their wire service stories appear everywhere.)

FluorescentLamp said...

Is there more of a sense of the time passed in this version?

I feel like Benioff had the same problem with the original that you did, A_K, because there is a definite sense of time played out through the scenes with Tobey and family, as well as Tobey in Afghanistan.

At the beginning of the film when Tobey is about to be deployed again, one of the daughters asks if he'll be there for her birthday - which we learn is March 10.

While in Afghanistan we learn at one point, after time has passed, that it's been two months.

Later still we see we see another signpost of time and we can figure out how long Tobey had been in Afghanistan.

Overall, it's not quite the same as the original, but I think it works. Some scenes work better in the original (*cough Police Confrontation cough*) and then again some scenes, a lot of scenes, work better in this film. For instance, I think the chemistry between Tobey and Natalie's characters is much better in this version. And Jake-as-drunk-Tommy Cahill is someone I want to hang out with. He's fantastic in those scenes.

Anything else you want to know? Ask away.

FluorescentLamp said...

Oh, another thing I wanted to mention and to give her her due - young Taylor Geare - who plays the younger of the two daughters. We know Bailee Madison has been receiving the bulk of the praise, but both UV and I thought she was a little "too actressy" in the part. However, Taylor Geare was just wonderful. And funny.

Chica said...

Thanks so much for this review!

This role give Jake a chance to show a range of emotions and maturity. Glad to hear that there is a nice chemistry between Jake and Natalie. Your take on Tobey is mixed I see like a few other critics. The supporting roles sound solid as well.

Sheridan does do well with family dramas. I'm sure I will have some questions to ask as the day goes on, thanks again !

Monica said...

Thank you, UV. A great review!

Is there a scene of Jake in jail?

How was the scene between Tobey and Carrey Mulligan?

FluorescentLamp said...

Is there a scene of Jake in jail?

Yes. Briefly.

How was the scene between Tobey and Carrey Mulligan?

This scene does not play out at all like the original. And because of that difference, the ending is completely different.

lawgoddess said...

I'm skimming because I don't want to be spoiled too much, but I'm really happy that you two got a chance to see it, and that you were so impressed.

agent_krycek said...

Thanks for that, I'm glad my 'issue' with the original has been cleared up.

Interesting that the ending has changed...

BTW, I fail, Jonathan Ross records on a Thursday, but Reese is definately down to appear (Gordon Ramsey - I'll be in another room during that bit, Sophie Loren and Russell Howard - cute Brit comic, plus Dave Grohl also appearing). I'll attempt to get a report in that night.

bc89 said...

i do nat and jake kiss once and do tobey and nat get it on

Office of Nancy Pelosi said...

I did a bit of skimming myself since I'm not into spoilers but it sounds like you two liked it! I plan on seeing it Friday after work.

You 2 are so lucky to have seen it early . I didn't get a chance to congratulate FL in the previous post: Jake answered your question!!

That whole video of the trio was too funny!

FluorescentLamp said...

I think what you're asking, bc89, would be too spoilery if I answered, so I won't.

FluorescentLamp said...

I didn't get a chance to congratulate FL in the previous post: Jake answered your question!!

I know!! And thank you. That was a fun Q&A with the three of them. Especially the tattoo question. ;-)

bobbyanna said...

LG & I saw the movie," New York,I Love You," and Natalie used Taylor Geare in the segment she directed. She's a sweetheart.

Yes! I was thrilled your question got asked, FL!

get real said...

Wow, thanks for the great review, UV and FL! So lucky you saw it already.

I loved those videos! Jake's charm comes through crystal clear and I adore that. :D Not to mention he looks fantastic.

That AP review is very annoying because it does get everywhere and that sucks. When are we supposed to get some of the other reviews? I didn't see anything from the NY Times and I thought they do their reviews on Tuesday?

I hope there is an LA premiere tonight and that Jake is there.

Monica said...

Tobey on Conan O'Brein:
The Tonight Show

Reese Witherspoon helps fight domestic violence:

bobbyanna said...

Thanks for the link, Monica! I like a toned down Conan! The clip they showed brought tears to my eyes.I think one reason that scene is so powerful is that, as Tobey's anger and his pain escalates, Natalie moves towards him in the scene instead of backing away.

UltraViolet said...

Thanks, Kendra - glad you enjoyed it :)

Monica, the Carey Mulligan scene plays mostly with Natalie.

I know it's soon, and I will keep this thread open if people have spoilery Brothers questions. But I think you'll be happy with the new post :)