The Films of Jim Sheridan
My Left Foot
In the Name of the Father
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (April 14/06)
Though he's completely devoid of anything even resembling talent, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson proves to be one of the least problematic aspects of Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The film, directed by Jim Sheridan (!), plays out like a prototypical gangster movie, with little in the way of innovation or originality thrown into the mix. The story follows Marcus (Jackson) as he attempts to quit his drug-dealing lifestyle and establish himself as a serious rapper, much to the chagrin of some of the more dangerous figures in his life (including a sinister crime lord played by Bill Duke). Get Rich or Die Tryin' is never quite able to overcome the incredible familiarity of the plot, with the egregiously slow-pace and lack of character development only compounding matters. It certainly doesn't help that at the center of all this is Jackson, a thoroughly uncharismatic performer who sports exactly one facial expression during the film's runtime (toothy indifference seems to be the best way to describe it). And while there are some good actors here - in addition to Duke, the supporting cast includes Terrence Howard, Joy Bryant, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje - Jackson's inability to create a character that's even remotely compelling ultimately transforms Get Rich or Die Tryin' into a distinctly tedious piece of work.
Based on the 2004 Danish film of the same name, Brothers follows mother-of-two Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she copes with the apparent war-related death of her husband (Tobey Maguire's Sam) by befriending his ne'er-do-well brother (Jake Gyllenhaal's Tommy) - with problems ensuing as Sam, having been held captive in Afghanistan for several months, eventually returns home and becomes increasingly convinced that Grace and Sam had an affair during his absence. Brothers - directed by Jim Sheridan and written by David Benioff - primarily comes off as a watchable yet consistently lackluster drama that suffers from a pervasive lack of authenticity, which effectively (and ultimately) ensures that the movie is rarely able to pack the sort of emotional punch that Sheridan is clearly striving for. The less-than-enthralling atmosphere is perpetuated by the almost uniformly underwhelming performances, as the three stars are never entirely able to wholeheartedly slip into the skin of their respective characters - with Portman's ongoing efforts at becoming this wary housewife generally falling flat (although, to be fair, the actress does seem awfully young to be playing someone with a 10-year-old daughter). And while the movie features a few admittedly striking sequences (ie a tense family dinner that escalates into violence), Brothers is simply unable to rise above its aggressively bland sensibilities to become anything more than a slightly above-average movie-of-the-week.
Dream House (October 17/11)
The degree to which Dream House ultimately fizzles out is, without question, rather disappointing, as the film boasts a fairly promising first half that culminates in a genuinely shocking twist at the midway point. The movie, which follows Daniel Craig's Will, Rachel Weisz's Libby, and their two kids as they begin to notice spooky happenings within their new home, does get off to a slow start, admittedly, as filmmaker Jim Sheridan spends a great deal of time dwelling on the central characters' exploits in and around the house (eg Libby paints, the kids frolic, etc, etc). The periodic inclusion of decidedly sinister elements - eg Will discovers a group of goth teenagers performing some kind of ritual in his basement - perpetuates the film's off-kilter atmosphere, and there's little doubt that the deepening mystery proves effective at offsetting the uneventfulness of the narrative. The watchable yet far-from-engrossing vibe persists right up until the aforementioned twist rolls around, with the reveal, which has inexplicably been spoiled by the movie's trailer, infusing the proceedings with a jolt of energy that instantly revives the viewer's dwindling interest. The novelty of the new perspective inevitably does wear off, however, and Dream House, having painted itself in a palpable corner, subsequently devotes itself entirely to Will's tedious and thoroughly predictable investigation into what really happened in that house. It's finally impossible to label the movie as anything more than a pervasively erratic mess, with the incongruously over-the-top finale only confirming the film's place as a hopelessly misguided piece of work.