Film Review : Short Term 12 (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 99%

Directed By – Destin Cretton
Starring – Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever, Alex Calloway, and Frantz Turner

A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend.

The more films I watch from last year, the more I realize how great, or should I say consistent, last year was. While the major award winners were great in their own right, it was the indie darlings that really showcased what a wonderful year at the cinema it was. It’s just a damn shame I didn’t get out to the theater to see films like Fruitvale Station, The Spectacular Now, The Way Way Back, The Kings of Summer, and the film I watched today “Short Term 12”. It actually ended up being my favorite of the bunch. I loved the film.

Brie Larson plays Grace, a mid twenties girl who runs a shelter for underprivileged teenagers with her boyfriend Mason, played by a charismatic John Gallagher Jr. The film takes us through what I’m going to guess is a couple weeks at the shelter where we are introduced to a number of kids who have lost their way in some form or another. Most don’t have parents and the ones that do don’t have much of a relationship with them. Two of the main children, Marcus and Jayden, have had problems with their parents and go through some serious emotions as the film progresses. The other plot line involves Grace herself as she goes through some serious times of her own.

Okay, I loved this fucking movie. I don’t know if it just hit a special chord with me, but I mean, I really loved this movie. I may not have nearly the same problems as any of these characters, but the hurt and anguish that most of these characters went through was certainly felt at the core. Grace is about the same age as me and seems a bit lost, almost like she’s at a crossroads in her life. We learn as the film progresses why this is but the initial portrayal of seeming lost is certainly something I have experienced over the last couple of years. Things are getting better, but the real feelings of sadness that swept over me while I was watching Grace live her life with Mason were overwhelming at times. This is mostly attributed to the incredible performance by Brie Larson. She knocked it out of the park in this film. She was able to pull off that “I’m in control on the outside but inside I’m a mess” character nearly to perfection. It’s something I’ve been dealing with every day. We put on shows for people and hide our true feelings and sometimes it goes on so long that we forget those feelings are even there. Larson was just incredible to watch throughout the 96 minute run time as she was in nearly every single scene and didn’t let up once. John Gallagher Jr, who plays Grace’s boyfriend/co-worker Mason, gave a lighthearted but insanely loving performance. He was able to shower love and affection upon the people in his life and was one of the most likeable characters I’ve seen recently in film. Along with the leads, Kaitlyn Dever and Lakeith Lee Stanfield were AMAZING in their portrayal of troubled teens Jayden and Marcus. This film did an amazing job portraying what it is really like working in one of these homes, mostly because writer/director Destin Cretton spent time working in one himself.

I can’t really say enough good things about this film. The story, along with the performances was perfect. There were a few instances where a bit more explanation could have been given, mostly at the end, but the emotion and uplifting messages the poured throughout the film were enough to hook me in for the entire movie. There were scenes that I was shocked to see what I was seeing, scenes where I laughed and smiled, and scenes where I almost teared up. That’s the ingredients of a damn near perfect film which is what “Short Term 12” is. I can’t wait to see what Cretton does next and I’ll be keeping my eye out for more films involving Brie Larson because she was just phenomenal in this film. It’s also worth noting that the beginning and ending of the movie were just absolutely perfectly touching and uplifting. I love this movie.


Suggested Viewing – The Spectacular Now, Fruitvale Station, Perks of Being a Wallflower

Film Review : Antichrist (2009)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 48%
Netflix Watch Instant
Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival – Charlotte Gainsbourg

Directed By – Lars Von Trier
Starring – Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

That was the worst handjob of all time. I’m not going to explain this. This is my way of having fun with you.

So tonight I sat down to watch “Antichrist”, a film which I have been putting off for some time now. Why was I putting it off? Well, Lars Von Trier makes a living out of tearing my heart out of its chest, spitting on it, and throwing it overhand back into my rib cage without any form of courtesy or apology. My first exposure to the man was “Dancer in the Dark”. What a wonderful film to start what would be an on going love affair with the man. I’ve always been drawn towards music and film that go against the grain. I like when people think out of the box and present us with something new. I also appreciate going to dark places where most filmmakers are afraid to go in fear of alienating their audience. Lars Von Trier doesn’t give a shit. He’s going to make his films the way he wants to. The man is a mad genius. He’s constantly pushing the envelope to new heights and I’ve always appreciated that. While my admiration for him is still as high as it has ever been, this film unfortunately did not further heighten my opinion of the man. This was my first Von Trier miss.

After viewing the film I did a little research and found out that Von Trier was going through a hell of a depression when writing/making this film. Holy shit did it show. The story revolves around a couple who had recently lost a child because they were too busy having loud sex in snowstorm. I had no idea Willem Dafoe was so well endowed. No I do. Thanks Lars Von Trier. I had always wondered what the mans package looked like and you have delivered on all fronts. The couple soon realizes that they are in a world of misery and Willem Dafoe’s character, who is a licensed therapist, decides that they should both go into the woods and live in a cabin for a few days. This is where the horror begins. This is where I stop describing the plot.

If you have ever had a messy room before then you’ll understand what I mean when I say this film is messy. All the parts of a coherent story line are in the film except they are in places that just don’t make much sense. I lost a lot of the surprise and meaning of the film because I was being bombarded by random acts of supernatural occurences involving animals and plants. The film is about the evil of nature. I understand this. I understand it more since the film ended however. During the film they hinted at it a couple times but eventually went into full on “spelling it out” mode by the films end. I would have appreciated a little more subtly, by which I mean letting me figure it out by myself, towards the end of the film. I didn’t get that. Instead I got some very disturbing images that I’m not going to be able to scrub thoroughly enough from my brain. I’m am going to have nightmares tonight and I don’t even own a vagina. Again, I’m not going to explain that.

Going through depression is hard. I’ve been there. Lots of people have been there and I’ll venture that most of them have had it worse than me. I was willing to stick with the film during the first half where we see the stages of grief in full play. Once we took our trip to the woods however, the stages of depression suddenly jumped a few gears into full blown lunacy. I was honestly taken aback by it. It was like a light was switched and all of a sudden we have a grotesque horror film. Perhaps this was intended? I know serious depression comes in waves. Sometimes these waves come in with more intensity as time goes by. If Von Trier was going for that then I can say I honestly get what he was trying to do albeit he decided to do so in an odd fashion. Again, subtly would have been nice here.

A lot of people compare this film with “Melancholia”, which is a film that I loved. I get this. Both deal with depression and it’s different forms. “Melancholia” however was a slow burning descent into the illness where “Antichrist” was like a slow jog into depression that turned into a dead sprint to hell. Insanity finally turned its ugly head and I found myself just wondering where my slow paced character study went. Now, this isn’t to say I hated the film. I didn’t. I just had major issues with the foundation of the film.

One thing about Von Trier is that he is incredibly gifted behind the camera. Like all of his films, the cinematography is gorgeous. His usually opening of a slow mo prologue was one of the prettiest intros I’ve seen in a long time except for that wonderful shot of Dafoes dong. I could have done without that. The film was dark. There were very few colors involved and I think this was intentional given the nature of the film. The acting was also very good. Both the leads had great chemistry and while they were trying to sex each other during about half the film, the other half was a great back and forth of body language and eye movement. Gainsbourg deserved her award. Hell, I’d say that any actress that has to work with Von Trier deserves an award after reading so much on what he puts them through. I guess that is the mark of a great director though. Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for destroying the souls of his actresses and now I guess Von Trier has grabbed the torch.

Overall I can’t say I’d watch the film again. I’m glad I got it out of the way but disappointed I didn’t enjoy it nearly like I enjoy his other films. The insane train that the film turned into was too much for me and eventually I just wanted to get off it. Also, if you have genitalia of any kind, do not watch this film.