David Gordon Green has adapted the 1994 first novel by Stewart O’Nan and is bringing it to the screen this week as its director. The story of love, relationships and violence in a Pennsylvania suburban town brings some weighty drama to a weekend of prehistoric heroes and family comedy.
Snow Angels centers on Arthur (Michael Angarano), a high school student who is in a very interesting position. He is witnessing the disintegration of his parent’s marriage, watching his former babysitter Annie (Kate Beckinsale) struggle against her estranged husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell)as he pursues a reconciliation and is on the verge of a romance himself with the new girl in school Lila (Juno’s Olivia Thirlby). Tragedy rocks their small town and brings into sharp focus for all the fragility of life and the power of forgiveness.
This film has some first rate performances from each member of the cast. Michael Angarano shows remarkable sensitivity and thoughtfulness as the conflicted Art. It’s a tough job to anchor a film like this and he does it admirably. Sam Rockwell once again demonstrates why he is the actor’s actor. His Glenn is at once frightening and sympathetic. He’s an uncomfortably familiar person to so many of us.
Kate Beckinsale reminds the audience that she was once a dramatic actress, long before the black latex and vampire teeth. Annie is frustrated, makes some really bad relationship decisions and struggles to find an identity that isn’t tied to her past. Her imperfections make it difficult to work up compassion for her sometimes but that is the sign of a compelling performance.
Thirbly gets her geek on as the cool Lila. She’s very self assured and comfortable in her own skin, (things I doubt many of us women actually were in high school but I digress). Notably, all the women in this film have strength of character that’s worth mentioning. I have to also say that Amy Sedaris as Barb, Annie’s co-worker and friend is a great example of how women pull together, leaving behind the indiscretions of the past. It’s nice to see Sedaris trying something a little meatier.
Griffin Dunne and Jeannetta Arnette are Art’s separating parents. Dunne in particular is good as the father not sure what he really want and struck by the maturity of his son and just how much he truly understands. Point of fact the behavior of all of the adults in this movie is more like a teenager than the actual teenagers. There is a great deal of pouting, temper tantrums, name calling and betrayal. It’s like Gossip Girl with adults.
The word that aptly describes this movie is bleak: a wintertime Pennsylvania landscape and the inevitably of the tragic ending. There are welcomed bits of lightness with the story of Art and Lila and Barb’s raving at her boss. That’s not to say the film isn’t well done. It is. It is well directed, and powerfully performed. The subject matter is heavy at times, well most of the time. So you need to prepare for that if you haven’t previously read the novel.
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