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Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Three actorsSissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, and Marisa Tomeireceived Academy Award nominations for their performances in "In the Bedroom." The film also received Oscar nominations in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories. I recently watched this movie at home on DVD, and I really liked the first two-thirds of it, where it is essentially a hard-hitting drama about an American family dealing with tragedy. But eventually the film took a turn into thriller territory that was too abrupt for me.
"In the Bedroom" is set in a tidy-looking coastal town in Maine. This is Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth country, where hard-working, self-reliant people listen to Boston Red Sox games on the radio. But lurking beneath the tranquil surface are tensions that will lead to crimes of passion.
The very embodiment of the civility that characterizes this part of Maine is the even-tempered Matt Fowler (Wilkinson), a fifty-something physician. Matt's wife Ruth (Spacek) is a refined woman who teaches high school choir and has special expertise in Eastern European folk music. The Fowlers are proud of their only child, a bright, personable son named Frank (Nick Stahl), who is about 21 and has come home from college for the summer.
As the movie opens, young Frank is earning money by doing temporary work as a lobsterman. But Frank really loves creating architectural drawings and models, and he wants to make architecture his life's work. Yet he's considering postponing his studies indefinitely because he's smitten with a local woman named Natalie Strout (Tomei), a thirty-something working-class mother of two, and he's thinking of marrying her.
About seven-and-a-half minutes into the film comes a sequence that brilliantly sets up the story's dynamics. The Fowlers throw a backyard birthday party for one of Natalie's kids, and Frank plays with the children on the swings Matt has put up. Matt's buddy ogles Natalie's womanly figure as he flips burgers on the grill, and Natalie makes pleasant small talk with Ruth, although the two women have little in common. A reasonably good time is being had by all until something unexpected happens: Natalie's estranged husband shows up, casting a pall over everything.
I won't say anything more about the story in "In the Bedroom" because the film seems to me to be primarily plot-driven. But I will say that the screenplay starts out like a love story, then becomes a domestic drama, and finally ends like a film noir, and I wasn't satisfied with the way the transitions were handled. Also, I didn't think the characters were completely consistent. For example, I'm not buying that the working-class Natalie would say, "I love it here. I can feel my life, you know?"
I found the acting in "In the Bedroom" to be outstanding. Wilkinson is particularly good, and I found myself wishing the movie had been more of a study of his character. Spacek is also superb in an unflashy role. Tomei is wonderful as well, but her character drops out of sight way before the end. If there's any good reason to watch this movie more than once, it would be the acting.
"In the Bedroom" turns out to be surprisingly cinematic. The Maine locations are picturesque, and the Americana aspects of the movie are absolutely terrific.
Alas, the "In the Bedroom" DVD has no special features of any consequence.
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