Kelly Approves of Room (2015)!

Room 001Rating: B

Summary: A woman and her son are forced to live in captivity.

To clarify, I mean I approve of Brie Larson’s Best Actress Oscar win for her performance in this movie. Room itself is very good, but this viewing was very much based on the hype surrounding her. I think this is one of the more subtle performances to win for Acting within recent years and I wish works like this were more widely recognized.

I’m not going to sweeten the language: Room is about Ma (Larson) who has been kidnapped and forced to live in a shed so her assailant can rape her over and over again. Somewhere along the way, she has a son (Jack, portrayed to be five years old in the movie) and her experience becomes about their relationship and not so much the captor. It’s cemented with the chemistry between Ma and Jack, played by child actor Jacob Tremblay.

A few people might be put off by how… sanitized this film is when it gets to the grittier details. I’m not talking about rape, but the film seems to just skim across survivor’s guilt and PTSD. As film’s perspective is told from Jack’s narration, it allows for a lighter tone- but this does Ma disservice as the movie never firmly portrays her mental state’s deterioration and her mood shifts without much explanation.We see bits and pieces of it through Jack, but the movie fluctuates between being his movie and Ma’s movie- it’s a little weird that it’s his story when it’s her we want to know more about. Larson does a superb job in the range of emotions her character rightfully internalizes, but it’s almost as if the writer was too afraid to go to certain places. Even one therapist’s session would have sufficed to make Ma’s arc feel complete.

While I understand this film is something very adult told from a child’s perspective, the first half of the movie feels like it belongs to Ma- it’s just misleading that we wouldn’t get to see more of her journey. There’s an entire subplot between Ma’s parents (brilliantly played by Joan Collins and a wasted William H. Macy) that gets lost and this would have been so beautiful to see.  When the movie shifts entirely into Jack’s story, I did lose some interest after about the first hour. This could have been my dislike of Jack. No. This is definitely my dislike of Jack. Now generally speaking and film-wise, I’m not crazy about child actors with the exception of Harry Potter (duh.) and maybe Peter Pan (2003, the one with Jason Isaacs, not Hugh Jackman) and pretty much any child actor under the age of 10, so this is really unfair on my part. I just can’t get over the stiffness of the dialogue. I know, I know, they’re just kids. Wah. I think it’s appropriate for some movies. Like Peter Pan is a kid’s movie- it works. I get what the film is trying to do- I do think Jack poses some excellent questions and puts all the characters in check at some point or another.  If there was absolutely no narration, I think I would have liked the film’s tone a whole lot more.

Again, the relationship between Ma and Jack is extremely special and emphasized in some particularly brilliant scenes with very few lines. I like the chemistry they have and what the characters essentially do for each other. There are some tear-worthy moments, thanks to Larson’s acting, which is raw and hopeful all at once. While I don’t personally count Room among my favorites of its year, I would count her performance as one of my favorites.

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