August 15, 2008

B- for Frozen River

Frozen RiverWhen we first meet Ray, she’s sitting alone, contemplating her future-–a distressing act that causes her to weep and nervously work over a cigarette. It’s this first instant with Leo that communicates an entire life lived with disappointment and misfortune; first-time filmmaker Courtney Hunt fixating on the worry-funded creases across Ray’s face. Leo doesn’t have to utter a word to transmit hopelessness, which brings an immediate thematic rush to the early going of “River” the rest of the picture is never able to top.

Once the characters start verbalizing their fears and resentment, the picture deflates to a disconcerting degree. This observance of psychological wounds is beyond Hunt’s skill level, who puts in a directorial effort akin to a person hanging on for dear life, not a secure examination of distress. Hunt doesn’t paint broadly, just loudly, failing to rein in her cast when needed. The director is unable to conjure legitimate threat for Ray and Lila, sticking to hammy underworld clichés (portrayed with Hormel-approved panache by Mark Boone Junior) and vague border patrol stoicism (Michael O’Keefe) for tension. Hunt has questionable taste in camera placement as well, with critical junctures of “River” resembling a glorified student film.
Comment:  This is the first Frozen River review I've seen that wasn't overwhelmingly positive.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

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