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.