Tribeca Review: Angels Crest Wallows In Its Sorrows, Drowning Great Performances

By Perri Nemiroff 2011-04-25 21:29:26discussion comments
Tribeca Review: Angels Crest Wallows In Its Sorrows, Drowning Great Performances image
As much as going to the theater should be an enjoyable experience, thereís nothing wrong with checking out a sad piece. However, nobody goes to the movies to just wade around in a characterís problems; you need to experience the personís emotional range in order to understand and appreciate their hardships. Unfortunately, in Angels Crestís case, thereís no variation of sentiment in the least, just one long depressing note.

Thomas Dekker is Ethan, a young father of a 3-year-old boy named Nathan (Ameko Eks Mass Carroll). One cold morning, Nathan wakes up early and convinces his dad to hit the road and take him to the snowy mountains of Angels Crest. By the time they get there, Nathan is fast asleep, so Ethan opts to head out alone to sneak a peek at the local wildlife. Only 20 minutes later, Ethan returns to his truck and Nathan is nowhere to be found. The townsfolk come out to help Ethan and the police look for Nathan, but it isnít until the next morning that Ethan finds his son, frozen to death, buried in the snow.

Not only is Ethan crushed by the loss, feeling guilty for his carelessness and simply missing his son, but heís also suffering with the pressure of some of his neighbors who outwardly blame him for the accident, most notably, Nathanís mother, Cindy (Lynn Collins). However, there are those who sympathize with Ethanís situation like his good friend Jane (Elizabeth McGovern). As for Angie (Mira Sorvino), the woman who runs the local diner, as much as she empathizes with Ethan, as a mother herself, she canít help but to notice the poor parenting decision. Worst of all, a local District Attorney (Jeremy Piven) plans to go after Ethan and prosecute him for his negligence.

Clearly, this is a tough one to get through, but nearly appropriately so. Director Gaby Dellal knows exactly what she wants to do with this story and goes for it. Everything from the color palette to the shot composition to the camera movements are meticulously planned, used in a very purposeful manner. This is a major asset in particular for a film dealing with such a gloomy subject. The camera, set design and music help to highlight emotions so the cast doesnít resort to overly dramatic performances.

While at first it may be tough to digest the rather young looking Dekker as Nathanís father, ultimately, Dekker convinces you of it. The opening of the film during which Ethan shows off his daddy skills feels a little contrived, but once they hit the woods and we move into Ethanís darker days, in Nathanís absence, Ethanís fatherly side is brutally strong.

The only one to come close to stealing some of the spotlight from Dekker is Collins. Her character is incredibly multidimensional. One minute youíll loathe her for drowning her problems in alcohol, but the next, sheíll evoke a glimmer of hope suggesting thereís a chance she might come around. Sorvino also finds success as Angie in a similar manner. Throughout most of the film, Angie is completely on Ethanís side, feeling terribly about what the prosecutor is putting him through, so when sheís put in the position of having to question Ethanís responsibility, it makes for one of the filmís most memorable scenes.

While McGovern shares an interesting relationship with her partner (Kate Walsh) and her son, in terms of enhancing Ethanís story, sheís useless. Had that character been cut entirely, perhaps Pivenís DA would have received some much needed additional attention. Weíre told a number of times that heís got a dark past plagued by an event similar to whatís happening to Ethan and that his desperation to punish Ethan is linked directly to it, but thatís just it; weíre merely told and never believe it.

This is an unfortunate issue that tarnishes a great deal of the film, and not just from Pivenís standpoint. Catherine Trieschmannís adaptation of Leslie Schwartzís novel is just poorly structured. If it werenít for Dellalís impressively telling imagery and this talented cast, itíd be impossible to be engaged in Angels Crest much at all. Once Nathanís body is found, the piece loses almost all forward motion. For a good portion of the second act, Ethan is merely standing still. Heís being prosecuted and isnít doing a thing about it. And, even when he does, his plan of action is a bit nonsensical. Worst of all, by the end, no oneís really changed. There are no arcs and therefore no increasing tension making the filmís conclusion sadly anticlimactic.
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