Do We? Do We Really, Really?
A sigh of muted disappointment. All the recent jokes about the title of this film led me to watch it. It was vexing.
What’s Good About It
The premise is good. Instead of glorifying some nutbar psychopath spree killer, we try and come at the experience through the mother of the spree killer. It’s kind of reverse Freudian cinema of sorts.
The performances are also very good. The casting might not be as good.
What’s Bad About It
Casting of John C Reilly. He’s a great comic actor and can do working class slob to a tee, but I just couldn’t see how his character and Tilda Swinton’s character get it on so well that they’d have kids. It’s just stretching credulity. It’s a bit like casting Jim Carey as Sigourney Weaver’s long lost husband in a movie about loss, or casting Will Ferrell as something other than an unsubtle buffoon. It’s not whether they do a good job or not; it’s about whether it sustains the willful suspension of disbelief or not.
Also, I really hate how there were so many artsy shots that were going in and out of focus. I know the director’s trying to do something artistic, but I found it mostly laughable. It was the sort of film a film school student makes as they search for something other than Hollywood. Those projects often fail.
What’s Interesting About It
Is this film really positing a moral question about culpability in raising a mass-murdering psychopath? Or is it sort of an elaborate ruse to say raising boys is hell? To be sure, the boy in this movie is eminently despicable; but you’re not sure whether he’s personality disordered because the mother played by Tilda Swinton is herself, pretty disorderly. If that was your mother, you might be driven to a spree killing too.
The film might have been more interesting if it was about Joseph Stalin’s mother or Adolf Hitler’s mother, or even the mother of that Norwegian nutcase Breivik – but it’s not. It wants to talk about a psychopathic spree killer in the context of a middle class family rolling in money. In fact it misses out on the resolute anger of these types of killers. They’re not dispassionate psychos, they’re probably the most impassioned psychos.
The Insanity Clause
I’ve been thinking lately that most of what makes good drama is actually personality disorders and insanity. This film is no exception as it milks the drama from how crazy the son appears to the mother. In that sense it reminds me of ‘Omen’ without the supernatural element. The kid isn’t supernaturally assisted in his evil, he’s just born that way. And away he goes being the totally irritating detestable prat. Eventually he kills a whole bunch of people including his father – which, hooray, Freud might approve of – but not to fuck his mother but to fuck her up.
The kid clearly is evil, and it’s not her fault – but the film doesn’t really explore too many angles on what this means or where it comes from. Just as Omen isn’t really interested in Damien, it’s interested in the evil that befalls good people, this film isn’t interested in the evil kid. It’s far more interested in the mother wallowing in her sorrow.
The symbolism of red liquids, from crushed tomatoes to red paint to blood is… cheesey.
Is It So Hard To Raise Boys?
I mean, really. The film is like a hate mail to all boys for liking what boys like. The scene where the mother walks in to find her son masturbating, and the son leers back at mom, with increasingly vigorous motion was beyond stupid. If the gender had been swapped and a father walked in on a daughter masturbating, and she increased her handiwork, there would be cries of misogyny and sexism from every quarter of the critical circles.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t have done the scene. I’m merely pointing to the fact that the scene betrays a great hatred of boys. not that it matters, but I just thought I’d mention it while I thought of it.
The Weirdness Of The Casting
The casting in this is a little bit like ‘The Graduate’ but a little more wrong. In ‘the Graduate’, Dustin Hoffman’s Jewishness looks incredibly out of place in the Pasadena WASP surrounds. It’s not entirely explained and in many ways that film just glosses over it. In the extras on the DVD of ‘The Graduate’, there’s the discussion of casting Dustin Hoffman as “this kind of runt”. I just thought I’d mention that because in this film, you have Tilda Swinton who looks hyper Anglo and John C Reilly who looks bog Irish giving birth to and raising Ezra Miller, a Jewish boy, as their son. They just don’t look like a family; and even I can tell. It’s as if a nice gentile family supernaturally gives birth to an evil Jewish kid as punishment from God.
My own explanation of why their son is a psycho was that the kid was probably swapped at the hospital. Clearly, he can’t be theirs. Who casts these films? Fail.