Brothers

I really like the poster:)

Brothers could have been much, much more.

Sam (Tobey Maguire), a soldier drafted to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, is the darling of his stern war veteran father (Sam Shepard). Happily married to his childhood sweetheart Grace (Natalie Portman) and blessed with two cute little girls, all seems perfect in the family. The only sore thumb- Sam’s good-for-nothing younger brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal). When Sam is thought dead after a helicopter crash, Tommy, a former jailbird, steps in to fill his brother’s shoes, proving himself capable of responsibility and love. Just as Grace and the children slowly recover from their grief, a phone call bearing news that Sam is alive arrives.

The film certainly tries to cover plenty of ground. Other than exploring family dynamics (brother in the shadows of a more outstanding sibling, the favouritism displayed by a father haunted by his war experiences, growing attraction between man and his sister-in-law), Brothers also attempts to look at grief, repression, war and morality, and  the devastating impact of war on a soldier and his loved ones.

It does feature magnificent performances. Maguire did a fantastic job as a straight-laced military man tormented by the horrors of war. Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman had sufficient chemistry and as the angry father, Sam Shepard was spot-on. The biggest surprise- Bailee Madison (I’d to google her name). The 11-year-old was by turns cute, anguished, and frustated. In what I think is the most powerful scene in the movie- a dinner which degenerates into a full-blown family quarrel – Madison was so good as a daughter bewildered and angered by the changes in her father, she completely stole everyone else’s thunder.

With such a star-studded cast, I would have expected Jim Sheridan to do a far better job. The show definitely isn’t bad (three out of five stars I would say), some of the dialogue is surprisingly witty, the pace is alright, the issues are relevant particularly to current American society, the acting is great, there are some genuinely wonderful moments, it is thought-provoking for sure, but it just didn’t make me really feel for the characters. There are so many things going on, the characters are not fully developed. Similarly, the issues were explored on a very superficial level, in a very understated manner.

The director’s ambition is pretty obvious: Brothers wants to be a great film but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite cut it. It is somewhat tiring watching the director throw in random Oscar-worthy scenes without pulling everything together properly. I would still recommend watching it though, it is easily way better than er, say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

On a separate note, I hated the audience at Golden Village Plaza Singapura 6:45pm Saturday 30th January (ok anal I know haha). There were three Indian women who just could not stop talking. At all. They would ask each other’s questions even after both of us and another member of the audience gave them dirty looks and told them to shush. Right in front, there were a bunch of teenagers who burst out laughing whenever Maguire appeared. I do believe, that in their juvenile, half-baked minds, they thought his displays of confusion and paranoia (excellent by the way), were very funny. I get where they are coming from, but argh, must they?

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