Sometime in the early 1980s, when I was still a graduate student in English at UC-Berkeley, I received an invitation from a member of my dissertation committee. He and his wife were having a dinner party for a visiting writer, a much-lionized British novelist who was spending a week or two on the Berkeley campus as a Regents' Lecturer. Was I familiar with the novels, and would I like to come to dinner?
I don't understand why everybody is making such a fuss
over In the Bedroom, Todd Field's first feature-length movie. The film has a few
surprisingly good moments, but these are vastly outweighed by its creakinesses,
its unlikelihoods, and its forced, false emotions. It deals with a subject--the
murder of a beloved only child--that is almost destined to fail if it does not
rise uncannily above itself, and given this choice, In the Bedroom opts
repeatedly for failure. That it should do so is comprehensible and perhaps even
honorable (as ambitious failures are often honorable), but it does not make for a
coherent, aesthetically satisfying, emotionally rewarding artistic experience.
The quality of most American movies released lately has
been so low that Spy Game stands out as a significant pleasure. This
Robert Redford-Brad Pitt vehicle is not a film for the ages--I may well have
forgotten all about it by next year--but it does its self-assigned job very
well. It is an example of good craftsmanship that is also about good
craftsmanship, and that confluence of medium and message affords its own special
kind of satisfaction.
The Deep End is nowhere near as good as all the other critics said it was. It is not a bad movie, as late-summer offerings go, but it is a highly implausible one. And though implausibility is not enough to ruin a movie, not even a thriller (Vertigo, which is practically all implausibility, triumphs precisely for that reason), you know that something is wrong when you find yourself picking apart the unlikelihoods. As I watched Tilda Swinton haul the dead man's body into the family motorboat and then dump it on the shallow edge of Lake Tahoe--a glacial lake so deep that anything sunk in its center would never be recovered--I wondered how she could possibly have missed the useful instruction contained in the title of her own movie.