So, after a large meal at Buca de Beppo we decided to check out the indy film, Animal Kingdom. I’ve previously spoken about the concerns I have regarding movies that get virtually universal praise from reviewers in the form of ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 90 or more. Well, here I’d get another chance to test the concern as the film was originally rated a 99 and then dropped to a 97 on the day we saw it.
Animal Kingdom is an Australian film that takes place in Melbourne and follows the story of Joshua ‘J’ Cody, a 17-ish kid from a very troubled crime-ridden family. I’d say it’s about his struggle to keep his distance from their influence but here that’d be very much like trying to suggest a rock has a plan to avoid the influence of the weather around it. Very much as the rock does little to influence its surroundings, J acts much the same on his path.
I should point out first that almost everything about this movie is impressive. The acting is just absolutely phenomenal. Every single role is handled wonderfully. The cold, calculating mother will cut right into you. Her disconnected and psychotic oldest son is one of the best portrayals of a madman since Ben Kingsley‘s portrayal of Don Logan in Sexy Beast.
The interesting part is that the least impressive main character here is played by the only person most audiences might recognize in Guy Pearce. It’s not that he does a bad job but it’s the only role that doesn’t stay with you at all.
Every camera angle seems perfectly designed and the locations all just work. There’s even a noteworthy and memorable music scene that involves a popular song from Air Supply (known for their slow, romantic make-out music) and one of the main characters. It’s quite unique.
The problems with the movie are two-fold and, frankly, impossible to get around. First, this was the longest 1 hour and 52 minutes I’ve ever experienced. I would have easily guessed we’d spent 3 hours in there had I not known the running length beforehand.
Second, it has an ending that’s entirely unsatisfying and yet another in a growing list that brings up the credits just at the moment you think you’re going to get answers instead leaving you to guess as to the full outcome.
Some may also have issues with the fact that it’s always a continually depressing film from the first frame to the last. This doesn’t bother me much but many other movie-goers don’t like such downers.
Once again a Rotten Tomatoes’ film rated in the 90’s was one I would have, at best, given a 70 to. It wasn’t a waste of my time but it felt like it for much of the journey. I appreciated it a bit more afterwords but not enough to undo the negatives. One of the reviewers stated that this was the best crime thriller in the last 20 years. I have major issues with a movie that plods along at a snails pace even being considered a thriller and many other movies have done this sort of approach better. I couldn’t help but remember the wonderful A Simple Plan from several years ago, for example.
I realized that while we’d had a large meal prior to seeing it that Animal Kingdom played like a movie that had just had its own large meal and saw no reason to do anything but go take a well-deserved and thought out nap. Sadly that doesn’t make for a great movie.