Monday, October 26, 2015
Room is Harrowing yet HumaneBy Tinsel & Tine Contributor, Mikhail Revlock
One cannot fault a sensitive, horror-averse moviegoer for balking at the premise of ROOM. On paper, the film reads as a realist revitalization of torture-porn tropes: Joy (Brie Larson) is kidnapped at nineteen by a bearded creep whom she refers to as Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), he imprisons her in a fortified garden shed and rapes her with nightly regularity, she gives birth to a child, and they live together in this tiny room for five years.
With Eli Roth (Hostel) or James Wan (Saw) at the helm, Room could have represented an exercise in limit-pushing. However, in the capable hands of Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), this adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s acclaimed novel should see viewers forgoing the barf bag and reaching for the Kleenexes. "Room" is an emotional, rewarding ride as impressive for its cinematic ingenuity as its immense heart. The former quality is evidenced by the audacity of its vision. The first half of the runtime is set completely within the confines of the titular Room. Although recent years have seen entire films staged within coffins (Buried) and BMWs (Locke), Abrahamson doubles down on the isolation by framing the story through Jack’s (Jacob Tremblay) eyes. The son of Joy and Old Nick, Jack has never had contact with the outside world, and Joy has raised him to believe there is nothing beyond Room. As a result, he views their situation through rose-colored glasses, running laps around the tight space and longing to get to know their captor. Nevertheless Joy is determined to keep them apart, and her efforts incidentally soften the more disturbing content. Whenever Old Nick visits Room, Joy makes Jack hide in the wardrobe. So, through the shutter doors, we see Old Nick pull down his pants before stepping out of sight, and we hear the bed-springs bounce, but that’s the extent of it.
If Room features any exploitative elements, they are of the emotionally manipulative stripe. At the risk of running afoul of the spoiler police (who should have been tipped off by the poster which clearly depicts Joy and Jack outside), I feel compelled to mention that both of our protagonists escape the clutches of Old Nick, in order to lament the loss of tension and rise in tear-jerking that attends the change of scenery. The shift from claustrophobic thriller to overwrought melodrama is jarring, and while this half of the film is spotted with touching moments, Room grows cloying once it leaves Room. It finally jumps the shark during an interview with a grotesquely insensitive broadcast journalist. Still the performances anchor the film even when the plot abandons it. Larson disappears into the unglamorous role with astonishing credulity, and Tremblay imbues his near-twee precocity with poignancy. Though #RoomtheMovie sags at time, these two actors lift up the picture every time they share a scene. Their bond feels genuine, their intimacy hard-earned.
Mikhail's LAMB Score: 4 Outta 5
Mikhail Revlock is a freelance journalist and fiction writer. His hobbies include bicycles, books, and food. A Philadelphia native, he lives in University City with his girlfriend and two cats. Be sure to check out past contributions: Interviews: "Dear White People" director Justin Simien and Kevin MacDonald "Black Sea". Reviews: Sicario "American Sniper", "Beyond the Reach", "Run All Night", "Horrible Bosses" "Jupiter Ascending" Event: Insidious Chapter 3 4 D Experience
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