Monday, February 21, 2005

I saw the film "The Woodsman" on Saturday.

One of the advantages of living near a large city like Philadelphia is the availability of movies that play here. Nearly every film that gets released, no matter how small, eventually show here. One of the disadvantages though, is that a lot of the smaller films that finally get to the screens, play only "Art Houses" in the city. So I have to deal with the traffic to get into town, then find a (usually expensive) place to park. Heaven forbid that the damn huge multi-screen cinemas near my house could set aside one or two screens for these films..... but that's a rant for another time.

So, after striking out at the Tower Records signing, made it to the Ritz for the 2:50 show of a movie I'd been meaning to see, The Woodsman.

SYNOPSIS: After twelve years in prison, Walter (Kevin Bacon) arrives in an unnamed city, moves into a small apartment across the street from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and mostly keeps to himself. A quiet, guarded man, Walter finds unexpected solace from Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick), a tough-talking woman who promises not to judge him for his history. But Walter cannot escape his past. A convicted sex offender, Walter is warily eyed by his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt), shunned by his sister, lives in fear of being discovered at work, and is hounded by a suspicious local police officer, Detective Lucas (Mos Def). After befriending a young girl in a neighborhood park, Walter must also grapple with the terrible prospect of his own reawakened demons.

This is a strong film. Tackling the subject matter of child molestation is tough enough, but having the main character, the man with whom we the audience focus our attention as a child molester himself, well that's pretty damn gutsy.

Bacon pulls off a strong performance, never cheapening his character. Walter is a molester, no false accusations here, and the fact that through his apartment window he can watch young school children in the playground every day, intensifies his struggle.

As the film progresses he attempts to lead some kind of normal life. Though he's having a relationship with fellow lumberyard employee Vickie, he begins to lose his battle with his desires. He begins to follow a young bird watching girl that he sees on his bus ride home from work. This leads us to an incredibly tense scene in a park that elicited groans from the audience and made me squirm in my seat.

There's a secondary story that involves a rash of child molestation's in the area that in a lesser film would probably have resulted in a very "Hollywood-esque" ending. Fortunately director Nicole Kassell doesn't allow that to happen here.

The Woodsman (named for the hero in Little Red Riding Hood") is a stark, solid drama that pulls no punches. And while most of his contemporaries may play it safe with simple roles I applaud Bacon's choice here.

I give The Woodsman a disturbing but excellent:

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