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Bedroom Eyes 

Cinematography is the best of several good things about this movie.

Blazingly fast-paced action and edge-of-your-seat thrill-ride special effects explode off the screen in this Matrix-style Kung Fu fest of fun! Or maybe not.

Actually, In the Bedroom is aimed more at critics than audiences, but I'm not exactly biting.

It opens well enough, with some gorgeous cinematography of the gorgeous Marisa Tomei and the gorgeous Nick Stahl cavorting on the gorgeous hills of Maine. Gorgeousness and gorgeosity abound. The imagery is so beautiful that cinematographer Antonio Calvache should get something better than an Oscar for it, like the Nobel Prize in Prettiness or one of those MacArthur Genius Grants, only replace "Genius" with "Sightly." Or maybe they should just give the award to Maine, for being so darn purty.

Though you'd hardly know it was Maine from hearing Tomei's inexplicable Brooklyn accent. This is only annoying if you love Maine accents, though, and since no one in the film gets the Maine accent right, I imagine it's all part of some subtle, symbolic point about the unity of mankind or something.

Still, in spite of her failure to do Downeast, Tomei is actually really good in this role. She plays Natalie Strout, a divorced mother of two (or DMoT) who is having an affair with the much younger Frank Fowler (Stahl). Fowler's mother, ironically named Ruth, is a controlling, unpleasant woman who wants her son to dump his girlfriend and get some higher-class tail.

Meanwhile, Frank's father, Matt, is winkingly encouraging his son to keep getting action from Natalie, since Natalie's the hottest thing he's ever seen, and Matt, at age 54, is living vicariously through his son's pudendum.

Sissy Spacek is passably good as Ruth, but she's passably good in the kind of obvious way that gets rewarded in March, i.e. she lets everyone know she's acting. Tom Wilkinson, as Matt, on the other hand, is seamless, giving one of those understated performances that make it hard to tell the actor from the act. Basically, Spacek is in the Olivier school, and Wilkinson is in the Spencer Tracy school. Watch a bunch of Olivier and Tracy films, and I think you'll eventually find that Tracy was the more compelling performer because he didn't sell it so hard.

Still, both performers acquit themselves well enough to catch your attention, but the real standouts are Stahl and Tomei. Sadly, they basically drop out of the film less than halfway through, and the focus of the story shifts abruptly. To say why would be to give away the most important plot point, but let's just say that Stahl drops out real hard.

After that, the film slows down tremendously. There's an excellent exploration of the changing relationship between an older couple as they deal with an unsettlingly empty nest, but the point is made and made again and then made a couple more times, and finally it's like "yeah, I get it."

It's at this point that the film gets a little confused as to what it's about. While the surface is an art-house oriented exploration of feelings, there's a Hollywood revenge film floating just beneath, and writer/director Todd Field can't seem to rein it in. When it finds its way to the surface the change is too abrupt, although the action picks up considerably.

After this, it's mostly Wilkinson's film, and he's good enough to make it work, so in spite of its many flaws In the Bedroom might well be worth watching. He's well supported by William Mapother, who plays Natalie's estranged and violent husband. Mapother pulls off villainous, pathetic and sympathetic at the same time, managing to humanize a role that's usually stereotyped. Since his previous roles have included "bystander" and "platoon member," I can only imagine he was thrilled to get this part, and his performance merits a lot more serious work.

The title refers to the final moments, which are haunting and properly unpleasant, and do away with a lot of the Hollywood styling of the final third of the film. Wilkinson manages to convey an intense emotional depth in what is largely a silent scene. Still, I'm not sure this wouldn't have been a better movie if it had stuck with the story of the young couple that occupies its first third. But it's compelling enough that I'd ask you to see it and decide for yourself.

In the Bedroom
Rated NR
Director: Todd Field
Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Nick Stahl, Marisa Tomei and William Mapother

More by James DiGiovanna

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