We Need to Talk About Kevin
Tilda Swinton is unquestionably one of the best actresses working today. She has an uncanny ability to elevate material that is far beneath her ability (see: The Narnia Films.) So it’s no surprise that she takes a film like We Need to Talk About Kevin and finds depth and subtlety in a character surrounded by comically horrific circumstances.
Swinton plays Eva, an adventure-seeking author with a flair for the dramatic. One rain-soaked evening she meets Franklin (John C. Reilly.) Flash-forward 9-months and the couple is welcoming their first born child Kevin (Ezra Miller.)
Now Kevin is no ordinary child. As soon as he starts to crawl he has it out for his mother. He cries uncontrollably and throws unbelievable tantrums that lead Eva (in a hysterical scene) to stop his stroller on a walk near a jackhammer just for a moment of peace.
The story is told, with some nifty editing tricks, through flashbacks. An event has occurred in Eva’s life that has left her shaken with her world crumbling around her. In the past we’re shown the events leading up to this life change as they become more and more unseemly.
I won’t spoil the event but suffice it to say this is not a pretty picture Director Lynn Ramsey has painted. Eva’s life has become so bad she spends her days being berated by strangers, working in a dead end job and drinking bottles of red wine in her pajamas on a depression-soaked couch. The problem with Kevin is that despite Swinton’s best efforts with the material none of the film is presented with an ounce of subtlety. The symbolism is so obvious at times I expected there to online casino be an arrow with a title card exclaiming, “look at this, this is how she feels!!”
There is power in this story but Ramsey couldn’t resist the urge to over-play. By the end I was surprised that Kevin hadn’t grown horns and a tail. Elephant, a film that dealt with similar themes, allowed the audience to mine the depths of adolescent tragedy. Here their motivations are spoon fed. Swinton and this cast deserved better.
Rampart is an interesting beast. On one hand we have the typical dirty cop story: L.A. Trooper David Douglas Brown (Woody Harrelson) gets caught on camera beating a citizen. It’s possible that this act is being spun incorrectly but because of the circumstances the media and public have cast their blame squarely on the LAPD. On the other hand we have a deep, introspective character study: Trooper Brown is caught in a tricky situation at work. He is also a narcissistic womanizer who revels in the chase and might be a terrible human being.
Rampart is set it 1999 Los Angeles. At this time the LAPD had come under intense public and media scrutiny for questionable practices. The ‘Rampart’ scandal exposed nearly 70 officers who were found to be corrupt. The charges spanned from unprovoked beatings to planting false evidence to stealing and dealing narcotics. Trooper Brown is one of the last cops from this era and in the film his actions are held up as a target to expose the lack of reform in the LAPD.
Harrelson is dynamite as Brown. He is in nearly every frame of the film and carries it with a delusional confidence. His home life is less than savory.
Brown lives with two sisters (played by Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon) whom he both has children with. His children resent him for this nearly as much as his former lovers. It’s glossed over and unclear why they even let him stay there in the first place.
Odd home life aside, Brown is one helluva corrupt cop. Making matters worse he believes in his innocence and is prepared to fight the accusations publicly.
Director Oren Moverman has an interesting eye for this kind of story. It could have easily dove into typical “cop drama” but it manages to always skirt the cliché.
Rampart succeeds because we’re given great character moments. These moments lace the film with dark humor and a point-of-view as bizarre as Trooper Brown himself.