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In the Bedroom

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: In the Bedroom

Starring: Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek
Director: Todd Field
Rated: R
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: December 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Nick Stahl, William R. Mapother, Karen Allen, Marisa Tomei, William Wise, Celia Weston

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Fine. That's what Ruth and Matt Fowler say they are, "Fine." In Todd Field's Sundance hit, IN THE BEDROOM, coming to theaters this Christmas, the Fowlers are anything but fine. For them, the word is used as a euphemism to keep from disclosing to the world their deep anguish. They are also in various forms of denial.

A rewarding story about grief and tragedy, IN THE BEDROOM contains two incredible performances by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson as Ruth and Matt. You can expect to hear both of their names when the Academy Award nominations are announced. Spacek's performance is so head and shoulders above any other acting this year that they should just skip the voting and hand her the Oscar now.

The movie has a great title -- but for some other story. I'd have gone with a simple title like GRIEF, which, admittedly, would be a marketing disaster. About as close as the movie comes to what the title conjures up in your mind is Matt's proclivity for innocent little sexual innuendos.

As the story opens, the Fowler's son Frank (Nick Stahl, BULLY) is about to go off to college to study architecture. This summer he's having a fling with an older woman, Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei), who has two young kids and an abusive, almost ex-husband, Richard (William Mapother). Their divorce is just about to be finalized. Lately, Frank has become sort of a surrogate father to the kids.

Frank's father can communicate with his son easily -- his mother would argue that it's because he always gives in to his son. The more demanding mother doesn't like Frank's having even a temporary relationship with an older woman with kids. Late one evening, as she tries to feed her son food that he doesn't want, she attempts to discuss his girlfriend. "You aren't really going to have this conversation -- right now -- with me," he tells her with disgusted eyes. Needless to say they drop the subject. The beauty of the movie is the honest way that it deals with not only parent-child communication, or lack thereof, but also husband-wife.

The movie really comes into its own early on, when a devastating event occurs. Afterwards, Ruth and Matt deal with the emotional earthquake in their lives through a variety of mechanisms. Although they both react quite differently, they share the taking of a common drug -- television. In the daylight hours and the wee hours, they stare at it like it was nothing more that a pixel aquarium. It provides them no solace but successfully causes the time to pass.

Hands down, the movie's best scene occurs when the two parents have an emotional meltdown together, confessing what really irritates them. You don't get much more honest emotions, and there isn't one scintilla of overacting in this episode.

Although the movie is an engrossing character study that generally eschews action, action does occur at several pivotal moments. IN THE BEDROOM is a film of astonishing power that you'll be seeing on most best-of-the-year lists. You don't want miss it.

IN THE BEDROOM runs 2:10. It is rated R for "some violence and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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