Posts Tagged ‘Jim Sheridan’

Director up in the clouds RICHARD CROUSE METRO CANADA Published: September 26, 2011

dream-house-daniel-craig2Shortly into my conversation with Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan I begin to understand what his daughter Kristen meant when she said her father “exists up in the clouds. In order to communicate with him, you have to go up into the clouds yourself.”

When I mention the quote to the Dream House director he laughs and tries to explain.

“I think that’s probably true in relation to the way I approach actors and story. I know directors like Tim Burton or David Fincher, they’re very structured visually. Then there’s the approach that says, ‘It’s emotional over here.’

But emotions are invisible and it’s hard to catch the invisible. Trying to catch the invisible is very interesting because it’s just something that happens in front of you rather than something that has happened, as Hitchcock said, and then I’m only shooting it.”

A scheduled 10 minute interview stretches into 35 minutes as the three-time Oscar nominee chats amiably about the movies he thinks will eventually become classics — “the poetic ones that don’t make as much sense” — on artistic vision — “it’s a product of interior emotion” — the meaning of the Kubrick film 2001 — “it’s a baptism!” — and, of course, his new movie.

In Dream House real life newlyweds Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz are Will and Libby, a happily married couple who leave New York City for a simpler life in New England. Of course, this is a thriller, so their hopes for a happy life are dashed when they discover their new home was the site of a grisly murder.

“It’s a genre piece,” he says.

“It’s a psychological thriller with horror overtones and detective story overtones, but essentially, deep down it’s a love story. It’s in the vein of A Beautiful Mind and Shutter Island. We’ve made the kind of movie with thriller and horror elements, but women will like it.”

Sheridan may exist in the clouds, but he is realistic about the state of the movie business. The kind of character dramas that made him famous are harder to get made these days.

“One day, I don’t know what day it was, maybe a Thursday, about a year ago, everybody decided you couldn’t make a drama anymore,” he says. “I think there was a surfeit of independent movies when there was a surfeit of money,” he says. “In Ireland we built too many houses, in America we made too many movies.”


brothers-trailerDirector Jim Sheridan may have figured out a way around the war-on-terror movie jinx that has kept everything from “Jar Head” to “In the Valley of Elah” and “Lions for Lambs” off the top ten box office list. He turns the volume way down, making a quiet movie that keeps the action to a minimum and lets the emotion of the piece to the talking. Oh, and he’s cast three appealing actors, Spiderman, Prince Dastan and Senator Padmé Amidala (that’s Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman to you) doing some of the best work of their collective careers.

For the purposes of the story Gyllenhaal and Maguire are Cain and Able, diametrically opposed brothers. Tommy (Gyllenhaal) is a bad seed, freshly released from prison after a bank robbery gone wrong. Sam (Maguire) is a captain in the Marines, a former high school football star, husband to Grace (Portman) and father to two adorable daughters (Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare). When Sam’s Black Hawk helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan’s Pamir Mountains he is presumed dead. Back home Tommy tries to fill the gap left by his brother, playing dad to the kids and platonically comforting Grace. The twist is that Sam is not dead; he’s been captured and tortured by Taliban fighters. When he is liberated and brought back to the States, his easy, warm smile is gone, replaced by paranoid volatility.

“Brothers” is a slow burn of a movie. Dialogue driven, the action moves slowly, allowing us to get a good sense of who these people are and why they behave the way they do. Lots of biographical information is delivered, but much is left to our imaginations. Tommy, for instance, is just out of jail, but we never find out the details of his crime. Instead as Sam and Tommy drive past a bank Sam asks, “Are you ever gonna apologize to that woman?” and we get the whole picture.

The movie is ripe with such moments. When Grace confronts her dead husband’s closet for the first time it is played silently, but packs a wallop. Sheridan isn’t afraid to let the audience think for themselves, and imagine how they would react in similar situations. Call it “method watching” if you like, it demands the audience to fill in the blanks, and it is an effective way to tell an emotional story.

It’s an emotional story, but not a complicated one. Sheridan even has Grace say at one point, “I am such a cliché,” and she’s right. Many of the characters are by-the-book—there’s the bad boy who finds redemption through family, the hard-as-nails former military man—but these actors add shades of grey to otherwise black-and-white renderings. Gyllenhaal brings warmth to a character who shouldn’t have any, Portman has a strong veneer but there is sadness in her eyes and Maguire, despite a tendency to be a bit bug-eyed effectively portrays Sam’s confusion. “I can’t be there,” he says of his home. “They don’t understand me. Nobody understands me.”

The supporting cast is equally strong. Sam Sheppard still has a profile worthy of Mount Rushmore, but now has the beer belly to go with it and it gives his character some heft, literally and figuratively but it is Bailee Madison and Taylor Geare as daughters Isabelle and Elsie who really shine. They are remarkably endearing without giving the kind of precious performances that mar so many kid’s roles.

“Brothers” isn’t a war movie it’s a movie about what happens after war, and in its own quiet way shows the toll war takes on not only the people overseas but those who stay home as well.