24 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Give your psychotic fifteen year-old son a bow and arrow for Christmas? Stupid, just stupid...
, 24 Nov. 2011
This review is from: We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) [DVD] (DVD)
Adapted from Lionel Shriver's acclaimed 2003 novel, the film of We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) wants to be a chillingly prescient and hauntingly ambiguous look at the terrifying consequences of bad parenting. However, the impact of such a potentially horrific story is prevented from hitting home due to an over-simplified premise and trio of one-note performances from the main players, whose characters' actions are largely unbelievable, and who come across as the kind of people that you only meet in the movies.
Tilda Swinton, whose acting ability allows her to play icy emotional sterility and little else, is cast typically to type as a tightly-wound former hippie whose reaction to her unexpected first pregnancy is to bemoan how she won't be able to pursue her free-wheeling, `travelling' lifestyle anymore and must (shock, horror!) settle down into domesticity in what looks like a $5,000-a-month New York apartment, and then a suburban mansion worth about $2,000,000. Despite the fact that she is an (apparently) incredibly miserable, lonely, and house-bound mother, she somehow manages to remain well-adjusted and creative enough to also become a published author (we know this solely because at one point we see a poster with her face on it in a bookshop window - itself ridiculous, as even J.K. Rowling didn't have her face pictured on posters for the Harry Potter books). Her situation is impossible to sympathise with, a problem compounded by the fact that she seemingly watches for over fifteen years as her son develops from a hollow-eyed, scowling little psychopath into a pouting, foul-mouthed teenage psychopath, and she can be blamed less for never loving the boy and more for not having such a vile little turd institutionalised as soon as he could walk; as played by Ezra Miller (and Jasper Newell as an infant), the boy in question is portrayed as evil incarnate from birth, which gives no consideration at all to a more intelligent `nature vs. nurture' debate (apparently a key feature of the original novel), and reduces the character to something akin to The Omen's Damien. As well as having an inhuman tolerance to pain (even as an infant, he doesn't even murmur when he breaks his arm), Kevin is ridiculously intelligent and manipulative on an almost Hannibal Lecter-like level, enjoying petty torments like eating an entire chicken right before going out to a fancy dinner as much as more serious actions like killing his younger sister's guinea pig as soon as she gets it, and then blinding the helpless little girl with drain cleaner. In a conventional thriller, he'd be a worthy villain, but here, in what is supposed to be a serious, realistic drama, he's a wholly unbelievable figure.
Compounding this problem is John C. Reilly, who (largely due to the actor's naturally genial expression, but more so because of the script's lack of interest in the character) plays the boy's father as a drippy gobbin, who, across his son's entire lifetime, never recognises that he has a problem (once he finally gets out of nappies at about nine years old, that is). We don't even know what he does for a living or how he's able to afford such an enormous house, a typical lack of background detail that extends to the rest of the film's `world'. Along with both the father and mother's mysterious professions, we are also left in the dark as to where, or even who, their own parents are; what Kevin does in terms of schooling between the age of, say, four and the time he starts High School (he apparently stays at home with his mother, for some undisclosed reason, throughout his childhood); what his High School social life consists of (one would assume he is the typical morose, friendless `loner', but over the course of several years this itself would set alarm bells ringing with the parents, teachers etc); and most oddly, exactly why, after Kevin's final killing spree, Swinton choses to remain in the same town, in which she has no other family, is vilified by so many of the residents, and in which she never wanted to live in the first place.
With its arty pretensions contrasting with a basic horror movie set-up and a melodramatic pay-off, We Need to Talk About Kevin is that most annoying of films; a supposedly hard-hitting, serious, and intellectual piece that is actually completely unrealistic and very stupid.
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