‘Brothers’ might be my fav flick all year

10 Dec

I love me a good movie. Hell, I love me a decent movie, so long as it’s in a theater. The experience of being so absorbed in a story that I forget where I am — that’s what it’s all about. It’s why I so love reading: that moment when you are in the lives of these other characters, when I cease to be me, when something so affects me that I have to repeat to myself, over and over, “This is just a movie, this is just a movie,” and even then, the words don’t dull the pain or horror or shock or love.

With that in mind, “Brothers” is movie-going at its best.

I feel no need to give a plot synopsis kind of review (if you’d like one, Ebert’s is pretty dang good). Instead, I want to get into why this movie is so fabulous. I won’t give away any major plot points, but if you’re really hate to know anything about a movie before viewing, don’t bother to click through the jump.

For one, the actingd is all superb, right down to the little girl actors. Nothing’s over-the-top. Grace (Natalie Portman) reacts as one would expect a woman to act when she learns her husband and high school sweetheart is dead. There are no tantrums, but silent tears. She’s strong for her daughters, but a glance in her eyes shows a broken woman trying reeeeally hard to mend things.

And, oh yeah, Jake Gyllenhaal is heart-breakingly perfect. ((swoon))

Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) pulls off the bad-guy-turning-good well because never gets quite to the angelic stage. He’s released from prison at the very beginning of the flick, so becoming a smile-so-big-he-could-be-in-a-Colgate-commercial kind of guy wouldn’t work. He still makes dumb choices (hello, bringing a woman you met 90 minutes ago to your 6-year-old niece’s birthday party). But he’s a good guy.

Toby Maguire is Sam, the Good Guy. He sees too much during war and comes home a shell of himself.  It is through his character that I can best describe the No. 1 reason why I so loved “Brothers”: It movie doesn’t beat you over the head with … anything. After an argument with his wife one night, Sam leaves. It shows him visiting a cemetery, and then it’s the next morning, and he returns home to find his daughters playing in the snow. We don’t know where he’s been all night because, frankly, it doesn’t matter.

When Grace gets news that her husband is still alive, after believing him dead for months, we see her receive the phone call. We see what happens as she’s about to tell her brother-in-law and her daughters. But we don’t see this reaction scene. As it was happening, all I could think was, “What will her daughters do?” Then the flick cuts away to the family waiting at the airport for Sam. What her daughters said didn’t matter.

These kinds of details makes “Brothers” a movie that is more about what happens than about how people react to what happens. This is not to imply there is no depth, but instead that it doesn’t rely on oversentimentality to sucker punch the audience. The story is grim and gripping enough without having to over-do a thing.

Have you seen it? What’d you think?

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