Every Friday throughout the summer, we’ll be posting a movie that someone on our staff has picked as one of their favorite Miramax films. While the summer blockbusters invade the theaters, consider watching one of the staff picks over the weekend instead. Today’s pick, In The Bedroom, is from Byron Dumbrill, Vice-President of Global Digital. The film is from first-time director Todd Field, and not only had a successful box office run and topped many critics’ lists the year it was released, it was also nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.
I can still remember sitting down to watch In The Bedroom in late 2001 at the Los Feliz 3 on Vermont Ave. in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. It’s a small theater without the stadium seating of a big multiplex, and the first act was so slow that I found myself fidgeting in my seat wondering where the story was going. I realized later that this portrayal of the lazy days of summer was intentional, and only with the front-loading of inconsequentiality could the rest of the story be so meaningful.
Without revealing anything about the plot, I can say that In The Bedroom is one of the most powerfully emotional films I’ve ever seen. This is not a soft story of adolescent dreams and forbidden love; it’s raw, unromantic and real with emotion borne of shock, loss, guilt, anger, and frustration. All of this set against a lyrical New England backdrop that, for me, recalls the simplicity of my childhood summers in both Boston and Maine.
There are so many little details about summer in New England that In The Bedroom gets right. From the sound of the wind in the leaves in the opening scene, to the little league game, the Red Sox broadcasts and the backyard neighborhood barbecues with rusty swing sets and charcoal grills. In authentic New England fashion, these things are not overstated, romanticized or made nostalgic, they are simply there as the canvas for the story.
But what I find most striking about the film is the depth and realism of the characters, often revealed by little moments that add shadows and negative space to what we actually see on the screen. Richard Strout (William Mapother) barely controls his rage when he visits Natalie (Marissa Tomei); Ruth (Sissy Spacek) tries to maintain her composure as Father McCasslin (Jonathan Walsh) attempts to console her; the District Attorney (Terry A. Burgess) jangles change in his pocket as he tries to avoid Dr. Fowler (Tom Wilkinson); Ruth feigns interest as Katie Grinnel (Celia Weston) explains the FastPass system at Disneyland; Dr. Fowler politely buys chocolate from a kid at the door in the middle of a heated argument with Ruth (one of my favorite scene breaks ever). While these moments are mostly accents on the story, they connect me with the emotional state of the characters by showing how they hide their real feelings, and that’s what makes In The Bedroom such a compelling film.
- Richard wants to move back, but Natalie doesn't believe he has changed at all. In this scene: Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei), Richard Strout (William Mapother).
- Frustrated with the lack of progress, Dr. Fowler goes to see the District Attorney. In This Scene: Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson), Assistant (Diane E. Hamlin), District Attorney (Terry A. Burgess)
- While Matt attempts to move forward, Ruth remains isolated from the outside world. In this scene: Ruth Fowler (Sissy Spacek), Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson).