Sunday, February 15, 2009

"frozen river" movie review

instead of running a few more miles after the stratford sweetheart run yesterday (as i had planned), i sat down and watched "frozen river" that afternoon. i'm so glad i did. what a great movie - and even greater performance by melissa leo - it turned out to be. leo's intense, lived-in portrait of ray eddy, a woman relentlessly determined to keep her family (two sons) together in the bleakest of economic conditions (worsened when her deadbeat husband steals their money and leaves them the week before christmas) should, without a doubt, win her the best actress oscar at the academy awards next weekend.

determined? she followed her husband's car - driven by either a potential "other" woman or car thief - down to an isolated snowbound trailer on an indian reservation to reclaim it. that scene, punctuated by a surprise gunshot, set the stage for how determined she could be - to the point of trying, unsuccessfully, to lash the cars together with rope so she could tow it back home! "i'm not leaving it here" she declared. minutes later she is suddenly, and unwittingly, on a smuggling run (of human cargo) as the two women drive across the frozen st. lawrence river to canda.

as totally preposterous as this sequence of events seems, in hindsight, it's incredibly believable and griping in the real time of the movie story line. in fact, practically no frame of this film is wasted - even the obligatory hard-luck scene where she once more asked the snotty nosed s.o.b. manager of the dollar store to work there full-time (after 2 years part time there). the difference in age, power, and arrival of her less than hard-working (but more attractive) colleague just deepens the viewers immersion in her seemingly no-win situation.

but it's the slow-thaw in the "relationship" between ray and lila, the mohawk indian who took the car ("i though it was abandoned") and took ray on her first smuggling run. the smuggling runs set the framework - and ray's ever increasing dependence on them to earn money for christmas presents, forestalling t.v. repossession, and the balloon down-payment on their new doubled size trailer home (said funds previously stolen by her husband). one run, involving pakistani immigrants, was mesmerizing.

the final run, amazingly, was even more powerful than the one that precede it. without going into the particular details, the ending was in some ways capra-like - while, at the same time, the film itself was practically the singular un-"it's a wonderful life!" at no time whatsoever did ray evince an iota of self-pity. at all times she carried herself with unflinching resolve that the job would get done - regardless of any obstacle.

watch this film. better yet, watch it before next weekend's academy awards. then decide for yourself if this long shot entry on the leading actress list should be the winner. i do!

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