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When I told my husband I was going to go see this movie, I think he was surprised. He had read the book that this movie was based upon (I haven't) and he didn't think it was my kind of movie. Well hey, I liked it so maybe he doesn't know me as well as he thinks he does :).
Thirtysomething Montgomery Brogan (Edward Norton) has been busted by the DEA in his own apartment for possession of 1 kilo of cocaine. In New York, it's an automatic felony with a mandatory sentence (in this particular case) of seven years. Monte has less than 24 hours to get himself together and turn himself into the authorities to start his seven year sentence.
Who turned him in?
He reaches out to those closest to him to celebrate a night that no one will ever forget. He starts by having dinner with his father, James (Brian Cox). While eating in his bar, his father apologizes for his years of alcoholism and for putting such a financial burden on him.
Live-in girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), and best friends Jakob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Francis (Barry Pepper) join him at a nightclub later that night. Everyone suspects that Naturelle turned Monty into the authorities and this causes a great deal of conflict between her and the three men.
Monty doesn't know what to think. He asks Francis to do him one last favor and Francis agrees to it - whatever that favor may be.
Drinking adds a layer of complexity to the night. While Monty is off to face his supplier (and assure him that he kept his name out of the whole mess), Jakob is flirting with disaster in the form of one of his English students - Mary (Anna Paquin).
What is the favor that Monty asks of Francis?
Does Francis do that favor?
Does Monty go to prison?
Does Monty kill himself?
Does Monty disappear?
Who turned him in?
Does Jakob do his student?
All of these questions - and many more - will be answered once you watch the movie people.
And I Thought...
Wow! I have to tell you that if you've never read the book and if you saw the trailer for this movie, you'll go into it thinking that it's going to go into one specific direction. It doesn't and at first, I was a little disappointed but that quickly disappeared once I got into some of the other "stuff".
I haven't watched many films starring Edward Norton and after seeing him in this movie, I have to wonder what my problem has been! I've gotta get this comment out of the way - he's a hot babe! Alright, that aside, I was thoroughly impressed at how he carried his character through his last 24 hours of freedom. You've got to give credit to him for being able to turn Monty into a sympathetic character. I never thought that I'd ever feel sorry for a drug dealer.
There are two scenes that stand out as excellent. The first has to do with Edward in the men's room, staring into the mirror, berating every thing that makes New York, New York and specifically, attacking every different nationality, religion, and stereotype. The images are powerful and seeing this side of Monty is quite fascinating. Here's a man dealing with a boatload of emotions inwardly yet he seems to only show the more passive emotions on the outside. That is, until we get to this scene.
The next outstanding scene for Edward actually involves his best friends and most specifically, something to do with Barry Pepper. I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen the film. It's a powerful scene that really shows off the acting chops of both actors.
And speaking of Barry Pepper, I'm not sure if I can say enough great things about the man. Playing a slimey, cowboy-type wall street freak isn't a tough job usually. That's a one dimensional character. When Barry hooks up with Edward's character, we see a different side. One that reminds us that these two have shared a friendship since early childhood. There's lots of loyalty and love there, represented in a very sincere manner.
All of the other actors turned in a fantastic performance but these two individuals really stood out for me.
Writer (of the novel and screenplay) David Benioff had a thrilling story to tell. As I said before, I haven't read the book so I don't know how closely the two match up to each other. I loved the witty dialog and Beinoff provided Barry Pepper's character with some of the funniest lines. Have a drink Jakob and shut the fuk up.
Now you ready for a shock? This is the first Spike Lee directed film that I have ever seen. Yep, it's true. I wasn't quite sure what his overall approach was in directing but for this film, he was highly focused on telling a character driven story, while weaving the environment into their everyday lives.
The scene I mentioned where Monty is reflecting rather angrily at himself in the bar restaurant could have turned out to be something really cheesy. But I loved how Spike spliced in reflections of Monty with pictures of the people, places, and things that he was screaming at.
While most directors would take the premise of "24 hours" and race through it to squeeze as much action as possible into the film, Spike does something different here. Time passes by - you know it, I know it but the focus is more on the discussions that take place between the characters. They seem to stop time. All of the conversations seem to begin or end with that overlying theme of Monty's last moments of freedom. It's like an anchor to bring everybody back to the reason that they're all gathered at the club.
Spike's camera angles and approach to shooting his characters was something different for me. In places, it appeared like he filmed the same scene (usually the intro or exiting of characters to each other) multiple times, splicing them together in a repetitive manner. After thinking about it, it made sense. Our first and last impressions of a person are started and sealed by the hello and goodbye part of the meeting. You may forget the other stuff in between.
When he wanted to cast a questionable suspicion on to any of the characters, the camera would shoot the actor in a way that felt evil. I'm not a technical film chick, but I know that it was a combination of the angle, the lighting, and the specific feature of the actor that he chose to select.
To my knowledge, this is the first film that has integrated the events of 9/11 with the story. It was a bit jarring but was tastefully done. In one scene we get to see Ground Zero being cleaned up and in another, we see the bright blue lights that were shined into the sky at night.
My only real complaint is that I felt like Philip Seymour Hoffman was wasted in this film. His character, I think, was supposed to be the "goody-goody" type who flirted with danger just like his friends Francis and Monty did, but differently. I'm not sure who to point my finger of blame at. It could have been the writing. It could have been Spike not shaping Phillip's performance enough. It could have been that Phillip wasn't right for the part. I just know that we (the audience) seemed to spend a chunk of time watching him without any real payoff.
I really loved the music in this film. The nightclub, where they spend a lot of their evening, had some fantastic dance music. Hope to see a soundtrack issued for it.
And before I leave, may I mention that little Anna Paquin has grown up (and out) quite a bit?! Wow! Loved her belly tattoo.
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