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 : The Way Way Back (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Directed By – Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Starring – Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and Maya Rudolph

Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

Oh man did the tagline nail this movie. I think most of us have been in the situation that Liam James’s character Duncan has been in. He’s 14, shy, doesn’t really know how he fits into the world and is looking for some kind of connection with anything. I know I have. I remember a vacation to Orlando, Florida when I was 14. We stayed at Universal and while my parents tried everything they could to cheer me up and get me to have fun, I was mostly running off by myself and getting lost in the park. In the film, Duncan retreats to a waterpark and tries to find his connections. My situation was a little different of course. I’m not an only child. My parents aren’t divorced. My Mom’s boyfriend isn’t a dick, but I felt that isolation that he felt in the film. It’s ultimately what made me enjoy the film. That, and the cast.

I think this is the most Sam Rockwell-ish that Sam Rockwell has ever been asked to become in a film. He is the epitome of charm and wit. It was almost to the point where his character became unreal because of how much charisma oozed out of him. He was hilarious to watch and as always, knew when to hit the emotions in just the right fashion. Steve Carell plays a different role in which he is like how I said above, just a dick. Comic relief in the form of the films writers and directors, Faxon and Rash, was also an enjoyable touch but they didn’t receive enough screen time to be honest. In fact, I would have wished for a longer film just so I could absorb all the great talent in this film.

It’s a fun movie. It’s not a game changer. I don’t know how films in the 80s or 90s that dealt with similar themes got to their cult status but I can see this being a great summer film in the upcoming years. It’s the dead of winter, snow on the ground, and all I want to do is go up to Martha’s Vineyard and have a summer. I think that feeling trumps over the large amount of sentimentality that occurred during the last ten minutes or the fact that this is basically a run of the mill coming of age story that we’ve seen a million times. The general entertainment from the cast and the overall vibe of the film are what I enjoyed most. Great summer film. Great film for teenagers. Rash and Faxon aren’t going to be winning another Oscar for this (The Descendants) but it’s a great debut for the first time directors/original screenwriters.