Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.
There are movies I look forward to and movies that I watch because they are on one or more of my movie lists. I can’t say that I was looking forward to Room. I knew the basics of it going in, and since I watched the Oscars a few days ago I went into this knowing that Brie Larson won Best Actress for this role. But it’s not a story that I was looking forward to seeing. Following the Oscar lists means I sign myself up for far more drama and emotional pain that I would normally look for in my movie watching.
Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in a place they call Room, a 10x10 space with a bathtub, sink, tiny kitchen, toilet, a television, and a bed. For Jack, Room is the only place that exists; it is the entirety of his world. In the night, a man they call Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) comes and Jack is forced to sit in the wardrobe until he is gone. In Jack’s world, the only thing outside room is outer space, and the only view of the world outside Room is the skylight.
In reality, Ma is named Joy Newsome, and she was abducted by a man who keeps her in his garden shed. Presumably the shed has been significantly reinforced to prevent Joy from leaving, and a numeric keypad has been installed on the door. Jack is Joy’s son by the man who abducted her, and his nightly visits are precisely what you assume they are.
The film starts around Jack’s fifth birthday. Presumably, Joy has been waiting for Jack to reach this age to figure out a way for the two of them to escape. She tells Jack about the real world, and, because his experience is just Room and television, he doesn’t believe the story. But she convinces him to play sick in the hope that this will get Old Nick to take him to the hospital. Instead, he goes for antibiotics. Joy decides instead to convince Jack to play dead, and she wraps him in the rug, telling him to unroll himself when he can and to jump out when Old Nick’s truck is stopped. Jack does so, and, while he’s caught for a moment, he manages to escape and give just enough information to the police to effect a rescue of Joy.
This takes us through the first half of the film. The rest is, as it should be, about Jack learning about the outside world and Joy’s painful readjustment to life outside Room. This includes discovering that her parents (William H. Macy and Joan Allen) have divorced and that her mother is now living with Leo (Tom McCamus), a family friend. Joy’s readjustment is naturally difficult, slow, and painful, and much of this is seen through the eyes of Jack, who doesn’t fully understand everything that is going on around him.
There are things about Room that work and things that don’t. The main strength of the film is in its performances. Brie Larson is excellent in this, in a role that was certainly demanding. It’s also worth noting that Jacob Tremblay gives one of the better child performances in recent memory. Toss in a good (if small) performance from Joan Allen, and you have the main thing that works here. Okay, we can add Sean Bridgers in a small and completely thankless and ugly role as well.
But there’s a lot here that really doesn’t work. The primary thing is the garden shed. I get that in a sense the shed is needed for the actual space that Joy and Jack live in, but it seems mindboggling to me that Joy wouldn’t have found a way out in the seven years(!) she is held captive. This is a garden shed we are talking about, after all, and even reinforced, it wouldn’t be completely impervious to being worn down. The fact that there’s a mouse that shows up in Room at one point indicates that the walls can be gotten through. Even the keypad is a problem. A dedicated effort could run through the 10,000 four-digit combinations in a day. Even if the combination is a longer one (she’d know simply from hearing button presses when Old Nick enters or leaves), it’s not like she would have much else to do during the day. A basement seems like a better choice, and more easily soundproofed as well. An attic, reinforced solidly, would even offer the same option for a skylight.
That’s really the biggest issue with Room. The abduction, the birth of Jack, and many of the factors of the story are completely plausible, but the actual physical confinement seems so flimsy. The only real explanation for Joy not seeming to try to escape is something like Stockholm syndrome, which would seem to go against the fact that she definitely wants to escape and plots to do so.
I expected a revelation with Room and I didn’t get it. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not one that is anything like what I expected to see. I admit that it was a film I wasn’t looking forward to because of the subject matter, but ultimately it’s a film I probably won’t watch again because I can’t get around the necessary willing suspension of disbelief for the physical nature of Joy’s and Jack’s captivity.
EDIT: I try not to read other people's reviews before I post mine. It's interesting that Chip Lary came to the same conclusion I did about the flimsy nature of the shed and the keypad. Great minds and all that. He posted first, though, so he wins.
Why to watch Room: A truly unique story.
Why not to watch: A concerted effort from Joy would’ve gotten her out in a lot less than seven years.
As I posted on Chip Lary's review, I didn't think about any of those things as I watched the film. I got swept up in the emotions of the performances, and had the biggest cry I have ever had in a film. I do take all your points, but for me, emotionally honesty trumps logic in this case.ReplyDelete
Side note, Jacob Tremblay basically stole the Oscars for me with his sweet enthusiasm, particular his utter joy at the Star Wars characters' appearances.
The general concensus I've heard from the Oscars is that the best parts of the show were, in some order, the "in memoriam" montage, Louis C.K., Lady Gaga, and Jacob Tremblay standing up to get a better look at the droids. I agree with all four moments.Delete
I get that emotion trumps logic in some cases. That's the relationshpi I have with Amadeus. I know it's historically inaccurate completely and has very little connection to reality, but I can't help but love everything about it. There are movies that hit us that way, and that's one for me; this is one for you. Nothing wrong with that.
Good call on Amadeus!Delete
I just rewatched it a couple of days ago (the director's cut is streaming on NetFlix), and it's still amazing. I mean, it's ruined the reputation of poor Salieri, but it's just fantastic still.Delete
This would've been so much more interesting had the Room been a porta-potty.ReplyDelete
I'm not actually sure how you'd keep someone from escaping the loo for seven years, though.
If it had been a Loo(m), then when Old Nick came by for his sinister visits, young Master Jack would have had to hide himself somewhere other than a wardrobe. And in a porta-potty, there's only one place you can hide.Delete
For seven years.
Gives a whole new meaning to being "in the shit," doesn't it?Delete
I guess you and I are just natural problem solvers. Maybe that's why I like most heist films and most prison escape films.ReplyDelete
It's also the reason I like films like Ex Machina. It appeals to me when a filmmaker can predict my thought process and play with it.Delete
For what it's worth, it's the same reason I find mysteries appealing.
"this is a garden shed we are talking about" I think you are being a bit overly critical about the room. For starters, you are coming at this as a grown "man," and not a young, trusting, naive girl, as evident by your having enough mathematical schooling to understand key code probability and the relatively flimsy nature of her cell while Ma didn't even graduate high school.Delete
We also don't know how vile kidnapper conditioned her over the previous seven years. Was she beaten into submission like a dog? Was her baby beaten or taken away from her to break her? Was she drugged most of the time to keep her lethargic and docile? Was she moved around blindfolded so much that she has no clue as to her current jail and its strength and weaknesses? All we know is that she is weak and sick and loves her son too much to ever leave without him.
Personally, I watched this "hard to watch" film by putting myself in her shoes, and those of countless other victims, put through hell on earth, and I found some breathtakingly wonderful performances in a subject matter that doesn't get much worse. In the end, I have even more admiration for those, like Elizabeth Smart, who lived through an ordeal I can't even begin to comprehend doing myself, and even more hatred for the likes of those who commit these atrocious crimes against humanity.
I think the film answers some of those questions. It's pretty evident from the movie that Jack didn't know Old Nick at all, and it's solidly implied that whenever Old Nick came into Room, Jack hid. There's no evidence of her being drugged at all--she spent her days according to the film with her son, and no evidence that she was ever moved around.Delete
Sure, Ma didn't graduate high school, but she was 17-ish when captured, and that's old enough to figure out a few things, or at least start trying the numeric keypad.
I don't mean to belittle at all the trials that people in situations like this are put in. Hell, I've got two daughters. I have nothing but compassion for any abductee, and would like to see more serious mandatory sentencing for people who commit these crimes. But a plot hole is a plot hole, and I can just call 'em as I see 'em.
I guess the subject matter just hits way too close to home as I've lost both a neighbor and a student to abduction. Both with aftermaths too horrible to mention here.ReplyDelete
Fair enough. Like I said, it wasn't my intent to belittle what happens to people or the horrible nature of the crime.Delete
Hell, not long ago, I thought this was a great film with a great cast (it's still good), but now I've seen the BBC TV series, Thirteen. It's hard to watch all five episodes and still reckon that Brie Larson should have won an Oscar after seeing Jodie Comer's amazing performance. And it's incredible to see just how great TV has become in comparison to film over the last few years, and nothing says it better than the first series of True Detective. Watch both and judge for yourself. You won't be disappointed.ReplyDelete
There's a reason that most of what I watch is older than the last few years.Delete
That said, when it comes to television, beyond a few NetFlix series like Daredevil, I'm pretty much limited to Game of Thrones. One of the things I tend to like about movies is that even for very long ones, the commitment is so much less. Movies are a fling; television is a relationship.