Posted Dec 07 2017

Stronger - This Movie Doesn't Quite Makes The Rocks

Dir: David Gordon Green

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown, Lenny Clarke

David Gordon Green is a curious cove. As a filmmaker he aligns himself with the Seth Rogen/Apatow off-shoots of the comic world. The he goes off and makes such indie fare as Prince Avalanche, gets ready to reboot Carpenter’s Halloween, and in between finds time to deliver a very decent, though in many ways very ordinary, true life, guy-in-a-wheelchair heroic American drama. One of two movies in the last few months that has dealt with the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Stronger is probably the (ahem) stronger film. Whilst Peter Berg’s Patriot’s Day dealt with the immediate hours following the atrocity, Green’s movie looks at the long-term effects, particularly those on Boston local Jeff Bauman, who became both a double amputee, and a poster boy for the resilience of the city after the events that day, two thing it’s fair to say the man who not prepared to deal with.

Unfortunately for Gyllenhaal, such a role comes with the ever present spectre of “Oscar bait” all over it, yet he often rises above such obviousness in his performance, finding some genuinely moving moments. He is aided and abetted by Green’s excellent use of close up, which sometimes feels almost intrusive in the way it lingers on his cast, but ultimately allows them space to do some fine and compelling work.

That said, Gyllenhall is a little too mannered pre-bombing and a touch too histrionic at times in the post period. We shouldn’t really judge his performance outside of the whole, but there are times when it clearly feels that both the filmmaker and the actor want it to be seen that way.

Which is a shame as it distracts from the ensemble around him. His family – led by always tipsy matriarch Richardson, and with the always good value Lenny Clarke in the wings, are finely observed down to a man and woman. Indeed, it is often the women who come across best here, not just Richardson, but Maslany, who gets to move away from her multi-character Orphan Black TV work, and deliver the most understated and ultimately impressive performance of the whole movie.

Jake’s strong – but Oscar is probably looking for Stronger. (No, not this “Stronger” – you know what we meant. Don’t pretend you didn’t…)


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