Movie History X

Tonight, I watched American History X.

Eesh. Another tough movie to watch.

That said, I was actually a little disappointed with it.  The acting wasn't nearly as good as the past two movies I've watched (surprisingly), and I actually felt the "transformation" of the older brother from hate to compassion wasn't particularly believable or compelling. ...I recognize that the point of the movie was the "outside" story, so they had to abbreviate this aspect... but it didn't really work for me in its current form. As such, I'm not sure I agree with the 8.6 rating on IMDB. I'm not sure I would recommend the movie, frankly.  Not that it was bad--it wasn't--but it was hard to watch (JEEZUZ the scene where he kills the guy on the sidewalk alone will haunt me), and thus I'm not sure if the payoff was worthwhile. Again with a message that I already fully understood. ...And, as I said already, the conversion wasn't compelling, so this isn't a movie where you can show it to people with hate problems and they'll see the light (as opposed to Requiem for a Dream, which may actually be a mildly good deterrent for drug-use). Kind of leaves you asking: what's the point?

Unfortuante.  I wanted to appreciate this movie. : \


Jen said...

I think there's definitely a tendency for people to say, "Wow, this movie has a really serious, important message - it obviously must be a great film." I agree with you that in this case, that's not the case. It's not a bad film, just not as amazing its reputation. It's a bit pat and predictable. I get the feeling the people who made it thought they could get by on the message without a fully fleshed-out story behind it.

Jeremy Rice said...

[nod] I agree.

Being vaguely interested in screenplay-writing (and casting, and acting), I'll often walk away from a "meh" film like this by asking what I would do to improve it. In this case, I can't think of anything minor: it would require some pretty major re-workings.

Personally, I think I would have told the story from the older brother's point of view, sequentially rather than in flashbacks. That would have allowed a more robust transformation sequence, since there would be less time spend on the younger brother's personal story.

I also wouldn't have had the younger brother accept the older brother's arguments as easily as was the case. ...Maybe a hint that he could be converted, but not the 180 they portrayed in the movie.

I would also have driven home the point that such a transformation by the (now) main character doesn't come easily, and even after he's turned the corner, he is still paying the price for his past.

I also--and it pains me to say this--wouldn't case Norton. While I think he's a superb actor, generally, he didn't pull of the "good" side of this role properly. ...He was awesome as the hateful version of the character, but just trite and sticky-sweet afterward. He needed to retain some of the darkness and tension, afterward: it needed to be obvious he was struggling with his prejudices.

It was also difficult for me to reconcile the huge schism in the family between the mother and daughter and the father and sons. It just didn't sit with me that such polar opposites would have fared well for so long.

...I dunno. Perhaps it can't be repaired.

Oh well.

Jeremy Rice said...

"case Norton" should be "cast Norton", if that wasn't clear. :\