Review: Room

My favorite movie of 2015 is Mad Max: Fury Road. Whenever I tell someone this, the most common response I get back from people is “Have you seen Room?” Until last night, I did not.

So this was a point of contention with me. There hasn’t been a 2015 movie that has come close to how much I love and admire Fury Road, so when I kept hearing about this movie, I decided to make it a higher priority.

 

So now that I’ve seen it, am I able to see why people love this movie so much? Yes and no.

 

SITWOL: A young woman has been held captive in a small room living with her child born in the room.

 

So the “yes” part has everything to do with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. This is hands down the best performance I have ever seen from both actors… and that’s saying quite a bit in both cases.

564e0e312098a.image.jpgLarson’s character, especially during the beginning of the film, has so much freaking history in her facial expressions that you know everything that she’s endured just by her reactions. Larson’s best acting is during the first half of the film, and she is a freaking powerhouse. Her performance is probably one of the best examples I can think of for “subtle acting” done right.

 

The film, however, is seen primarily through the eyes of the young woman’s son, played by Jacob Tremblay. Now I’ve been impressed with Tremblay even before Room. He was the best part of a great movie called Wonder, and he was the best part of a godawful movie called The Book of Henry. Tremblay, however, gives an even better performance in this movie.

What’s even more impressive is that Tremblay was given a responsibility that no film should rightfully give to a child: carry the entire movie. And this is what solidifies my admiration for the kid, because Tremblay’s performance really carries the entire movie (even though Larson was amazing in the first half).

 

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All the other performances are good.

 

The script for this movie is pretty good. It shines the best when it highlights the misconceptions of a child who’s been stuck in a small room for all of his life (again, one of the reasons Tremblay is so fantastic in this movie). The longer the movie goes on, the less the script impresses, but it was good overall.

The cinematography was… good enough. That’s as good of a compliment as I can give.

 

Unfortunately, there are some issues I have with the movie.

For one, I’m very irritated with the soundtrack. It was awful/distracting at worst, and serviceable at best. With such a unique film trying to tackle such troubling subject matter, and spearheaded by the ambitious A24, the soundtrack sounds like something that would come out of a Hallmark movie. It was extremely uncreative and really disappointing.

 

I am also very conflicted when it comes to the child’s narration. On one hand, it did help with getting into the mind of the child character. On the other hand, Tremblay’s performance did more than enough for me to understand his disposition. And considering the narration usually cut up the flow of the movie, I’m more leaning toward the side of being against the narration. It really wasn’t necessary.

 

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But there was only one scene that really rubbed me the wrong way. And I can’t really talk about it without spoiling the movie so here’s your warning:

 

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So the scene I really didn’t like was the interview scene with the reporter asking questions to Brie Larson’s character. The interview questions were not only terrible questions, but they were borderline disastrous and unethical. She was asking Brie Larson questions like “Will the father ever be involved in Jack’s life?” or “Don’t you think you should’ve tried to get your captor to just leave your baby at a hospital to spare him from the trauma you experienced?” (These questions aren’t completely verbatim, but I’m just trying to get the point across).

And all I could think of was, “Holy crap, what kind of asshole do you have to be ask those kind of questions?” The interviewer should’ve just said “You should commit suicide, you stupid bitch” for what good it did. And then in the next scene, Larson’s character tries to commit suicide, thus moving the plot along. It all felt like a cheap plot device because I was certain that this sort of interview would never happen in the first place…

… Now I’ve been wrong about hunches like this before, so I decided to spend a bunch of time watching interviews of kidnap victims like Elizabeth Smart, Amanda Berry, and Michelle Knight… interviewed by people ranging from Anderson Cooper to Dr. Phil. I watched about an hour and a half of interviews (about as much as I could stomach because these women… damn… my heart goes out to them).

And as expected, none of the interviewers asked such accusatory questions. Sure, they were often asked to describe the horrors they went through, but they were never accused of or had it implied that they did something wrong.

Now again, the reason I hated this scene was because it was unrealistic and an obvious, cheap way to move the plot along.

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Now again, none of these critiques are so terrible as to downplay Larson’s or Tremblay’s impactful performances. However, they really kind of butchered up what could have been a phenomenal, possibly perfect film.

If anything, Room is worth seeing just as a demonstration of how awe-inspiring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay can be as performers.

But quite literally everything else in the movie is either just good enough or really bad.

 

I’m so glad I finally watched Room. I loved the performances, and I now see why Brie Larson won Best Actress the year she was nominated. However, I don’t think this movie comes close to the kind of caliber Mad Max: Fury Road is at. That said… I’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road ten times, and it’s something my wife and I love watching together, so you could successfully accuse me of bias.

The film is never graphic in its portrayal of abuse (mainly because the story is told through the eyes of the child character), but that said, you can easily get an idea through Larson’s phenomenal performance… so don’t see this movie if this subject matter is something you can’t handle. Otherwise, I’d highly recommend seeing this film.

7 out of 10