Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: Kevin Bacon Deserved Oscar Nod for "The Woodsman" (Happy B'day, Kevin Bacon)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 66 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Woodsman (2004)
Running time: 87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexuality, disturbing behavior, and language
DIRECTOR: Nicole Kassell
WRITERS: Steven Fechter and Nicole Kassell (based upon the play by Steven Fechter)
PRODUCERS: Lee Daniels
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Xavier Perez Grobet
EDITORS: Lisa Fruchtman and Brian A. Kates
Black Reel Award winner

DRAMA with elements of a thriller

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Eve, Mos Def, David Alan Grier, Michael Shannon, Benjamin Bratt, Kevin Rice, and Hannah Pilkes

Walter (Kevin Bacon) spent 12 years in prison on charges of sexually abusing small children. Now, he’s released and trying hard to regain some sense of normalcy in his life. He lands a job working in a lumberyard only because he worked for his boss, Rosen’s (David Alan Grier), father. At the new job, he meets and begins a halting romance with another employee, a woman named Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick), but Walter’s biggest task is to keep from giving in to his compulsions and committing more crimes against children.

The Woodsman, simply put, is as riveting as the most intense horror films (something like The Exorcist) and as heart-stopping as the most extreme action films (Die Hard or The Rock). That’s built on two things – the situation and the Kevin Bacon’s heart-wrenching performance. The plot is tight and deals with the life of a child molester/sex offender in an even-handed way. Of course, there are obviously some genre conventions (Walter’s romance with Vickie and Walter’s struggle to stop another child molester from creating a victim) designed to create a moderately happy or, at least, hopeful ending. Sometimes, The Woodsman seems a bit over the top, in both the portrayal of Walter’s struggles not to offend again, and in the number of other victims or similar situations Walter encounters in what, for us, is a movie under an hour and a half long.

Still, director/co-writer Nicole Kassell and co-writer Steven Fechter do a fantastic job turning a complicated and difficult subject matter and societal issue into a small film that rings with such truth. They make The Woodsman one of those important films that is first a good movie and then, an honest and informative way of presenting the matter as art. I would quibble that the lack of time left some good characters, especially Kyra Sedgwick’s Vickie and Mos Def’s Sgt. Lucas as mere shadows, when they deserved more.

Kevin Bacon’s performance as Walter is one of a handful of performances in 2004 film releases that was overshadowed by Jamie Foxx’s super turn in the Ray Charles biopic, Ray. Bacon quietly, but with such magnum force, details Walter’s internal and external struggles in the way he moves, talks, eats, sleeps, works, etc., and the most-telling parts of the performance are in the nuances, the spaces between the obvious. Long an underrated actor, The Woodman may do for Bacon what Dead Man Walking did for Sean Penn.

8 of 10

2005 Black Reel Awards: 2 wins: “Best Actor, Independent Film” (Mos Def) and “Best Independent Film” (Newmarket Films); 1 nomination: “Best Actress, Independent Film” (Eve)

April 18, 2005


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