by Tony Johnson
at 11:58 AM | Permalink
director Lenny Abrahamson last charmed us with the post-modern indie drama Frank. It was a film about finding
harmony and friendship — rather low stakes compared to his newest film. The
49-year-old director is hitting us where it hurts in latest effort, Room, a tense indie drama with its fair
share of thrills that plays off of a screenplay from Emma Donoghue based on her
novel of the same name. Abrahamson boldly and unapologetically drops us into
Donoghue’s world. It’s a small shed inhabited by a mother, Joy (Brie Larson),
and her 5-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Held against their will by a
caretaking yet maniacal captor, the room that they inhabit comes to be their
physical world. But what is even more intriguing is the son’s understanding of
the world that he has never been exposed to.
formed his beliefs based on his own observations. His mother has taught him that
the room they inhabit is “Room” — what seems to be perceived by Jack as a
separate dimension from the world in the same way that the world would be
considered a separate dimension from Heaven or Hell. This makes plans for
breaking out exceedingly troublesome when Jack’s mother is forced to use her
son as the main piece of her escape plan. How do you explain to a 5-year-old
when to jump out of a truck, where to run or how to get help when the boy has
never even seen the light of day?
finally escape and are thrust into reality, neither of them is prepared for it.
But both of them are caught in shock for different reasons. Joy must face the
fallout from her parent’s divorce, an unwanted celebrity status when her story
that becomes sensationalized by a ruthless mass media and the reclamation of a
life once lost. Jack is thrust into a world he once thought uninhabitable. It
shakes the foundation of his entire perspective, and the unraveling of his
mother only makes things more difficult for everyone involved.
Led by Brie
Olsen and Jacob Tremblay’s mother-and-son chemistry, the film unfolds at a pace
and with a grace that is sorely lacking from too many pictures. The movie
hardly drags for a second. Every detail of every conversation warrants
something to consider beyond what we hear and see. As we come to witness Joy
and Jack’s re-entry into the world as we know it, they must grapple with a loss
of every sense of familiarity, having spent the last five years captive in
their room. Joy and Jack are the only link each one of them has to a painful
Room signifies the beginning of what will
be an onslaught of artsy independent films taking trips during awards season. As
of this morning it’s garnered three Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion
Picture – Drama, Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Larson) and Best
Screenplay. From an industry perspective, I imagine it will have a similar role
as Whiplash did for 2014’s movie
season. It has an up-and-coming director like Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle. They share the quality of leading millennial
festival darlings in Brie Larson and Miles Teller. And both of them had low
figures at the box office — Whiplash
brought in less than $15 million, while Room
hasn’t even broken $4 million (this will change if it comes to be nominated for
an Academy Award, as most distributers will re-release a film as did Whiplash’s Sony Spotlight partners when
awards-hype sets in).
I don’t expect that Room has any sort
of chance to do serious damage during awards season, but I can’t imagine a
scenario where Brie Larson doesn’t bring home some sort of hardware for her
efforts. She is absolutely stunning at every turn of the nearly-two-hour story.
If someone beats her to the Oscar or Globe for Best Actress, it will be
difficult to imagine someone being a clear favorite to win beforehand. It is
impossible to take our eyes off of her every move in Room.
likely finds herself now at a moment in her career that may soon take her
places in the realm of Jennifer Lawrence, Mia Wasikowska, and Rooney Mara as
some of the most discussed, beloved and talented Hollywood actresses of their
generation. The emotional toll on Larson of portraying Joy in Room could only be imagined for anyone
outside of the production process, but I can at least imagine that it will
change the way Larson carries herself. Building off of her work in the heart-wrenching
Short Term 12, Larson is no longer
most notable for her shy-gal cuteness in 21
has grown into more mature material with a vastly daring emotional breadth. She
has gained and exhibited whatever it is that makes an actress into a star, a
character into a friend and a girl into a woman. Brie Larson — not unlike Joy —
has seemingly grown up suddenly and without so much as a flinch. She still
carries brightness about her, but now there is something more to illuminate.
Brie Larson is no longer just a good actress. She is a rare talent worthy of
our acknowledgment, our awe, and our admiration. Get to the Esquire before you
miss her in Room.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 18, 2015
We tell ourselves the world is a big place, but director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), adapting Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, shows us just how infinite the space can truly be.
0 Comments · Tuesday, December 30, 2008
For better or for worse, I usually end up writing most of the columns in this Living Out Loud space — and that was no different in 2008. Sometimes I think I’ll run out of things to write about, but something always happens. That something is life. If you’re living with your eyes open — or out loud — the well never really runs dry.
0 Comments · Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Foodie Jason Klapfish has traveled the world, including the Arctic Circle and half of Mexico. Not one to settle down, Cincinnati is the only place he keeps coming back to.