Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Main Street

Author(s): Zgamer
Location: ID

"Main Street"

Directed by Bennett Miller
Written by Dan Futterman
Cinematography by Adam Kimmel
Edited by Dylan Tichenor

Main Cast

Michael Clarke Duncan as Rick Rogers
Joan Cusack as Alice Jenkins
Michael Emerson as Fredrick Majors
Emily Mortimer as Patricia Naylor
Michael Cera as Eric Bell

Tagline: "Sometimes one glance is all it takes"

Synopsis: What was once a chilly, busy morning turned into a scene of panic. Blood was splattered all over the street and the windshield of the bus that hit the nicely dressed man. Kids were pulled away as police barred off the location, but it did not stop many more onlookers from watching the results. None of them knew why they wanted to see it, but they couldn’t look away. It just seemed so impossible and strange. Besides, it is not often that a death, especially one so public, occurs in a small town like this. However, only five people understood what really happened and it was this knowledge that would change their lives forever.

One of these people was Rick Rogers, the newly announced candidate for mayor of the town. A charismatic but sensitive man, Rogers was giving a speech across the street when a young boy’s shout directed his attention to the incident. That boy was the seven-year-old child of Alice Jenkins, am intelligent but hotheaded woman who brought son to the rally since she could not find someone to watch over him before it started.

Another of these people was Fredrick Majors. Majors had been quietly going through his recent brief on a park bench when he chose the wrong time to look for his cell phone. This had brought the attention of Patricia Naylor, who calling her sister back home when Majors interrupted her, assuming she was using his phone. Their argument had subsequently caught the attention of Eric Bell, a Mormon missionary who was looking for his companion when he took a wrong turn.

As the body was removed from the scene, confusion began to enter the thoughts of these five people. They had never witnessed death before and this was not the best way to do so. Plus, new worries are now beginning to surface. The event will begin to cause a very negative vibe towards Rogers campaign and he must find a way to circumvent the nasty details to prevent any upsets from his competitors. Alice’s son will soon start showing reactions to the incident and may need professional help. Majors will eventually be called to the case dealing with the dead man’s widow and will have to make some major choices. None of them know what will happen, but they know things will not be the same for a long time.

What the Press would say:

Death. It is an inevitable event that everyone will eventually experience to at one point or another. Despite what the media conditions you to think about death, nothing can compare to the altering experience of witnessing real-life death, particularly a suicide. Being ready to cope with that impact, however, is not always possible. This is what the characters of Bennett Miller’s “Main Street” soon discover when each of them witness a grisly suicide right in the middle of their town.

“Main Street”, in concept, sounds like a very complicated film to pull off. While the story does throw in moments now and then, this is not completely a plot driven film. It is a deep character study reflecting on five people coping with an event they have never experienced. As such, the story’s progression is mostly dependent on how the character decides to respond to the situation. This all works very well, though, thanks to the expertly written script by Dan Futterman and Bennet Miller’s capable directing. Everything is handled very subtly, but never feels boring because of the honesty and effectiveness of the writing. Futterman balances out the heavy subject matter with heartfelt moments, smart dialogue and some unexpected chuckles to help lighten the mood when it’s appropriate. Likewise, Miller smoothly controls the ebb and flow of the film’s progression while maintaining the mood and structure of each scene. Subtlety is the name of his game, since he never lets anything go too far or fall short when they should not. This is very welcome, since it is annoying when the scene is too dramatically obvious or heavy handed.

The technical effects, while noticeably independent scale, all serve their purpose quite well. The settings, costumes and sound all do their job to create a very real modern day feel. However, two aspects make the technicals shine. One is the wonderful cinematography, which takes on a very down to earth approach that actually makes the scene more compelling to watch. Goes to show that with great angles and staging can beat any so-called “artsy” films any day. The other great part is the editing. While directing and writing definitely helped, this film’s flow would not of been half as effective if not for the expertly timed editing from Oscar-nominated editor Tichenor. There’s a very consistent rhythm to the cuts that keep your interest by knowing when and where to focus the attention. If any technical has a chance for an Oscar, it is this part.

In the end, however, this film is about the acting. None of these characters could have come to life so vividly if not for the excellent performances behind them. Duncan and Cusack easily give some of their best performances in a very long time as the two characters that are essentially the “leads”. Duncan, as a mayoral candidate dealing with a public incident, draws in both the audience with his distinct voice and confident attitude. He evokes the sensitivity he displayed in “The Green Mile” while balancing it out with a mature tone he had not used in many of his recent films. It also helps that the speeches his character makes are incredibly powerful and skillfully delivered. Likewise, Cusack fully embraces the film’s most relatable role as the mother of the boy who brought these people’s attention to the scene. She buries herself in the role by subtly handling her mannerisms and emotions. Her most powerful scene, in which she has a very touching conversation with her son, will move you to tears with its vulnerability and honesty. The supporting roles are also very well handled, from Mortimer’s fragile waitress to Emerson’s short but memorable turn as a semi-neurotic who provides some of the film’s few lighter moments with his quirky behavior. Cera, while not an Oscar-worthy performance, does a good job playing a na├»ve character that’s a welcome change of pace from his previous roles. It’s these performances that prove that a little character development can go a long way.

“Main Street” is one of those rare films that can accomplish a lot by essentially doing nothing. It’s not what’s shown that’s important but what’s inferred. Plus, the film is intelligent, sensitive, powerful and a satisfying experience for those who really think about it. If you want a film that has excellent writing, effective direction, good intention and great performances, this is you film.

Awards Possibilities

Best Picture
Best Director (Bennett Miller)
Best Actor (Michael Clarke Duncan)
Best Actress (Joan Cusack)
Best Supporting Actor (Michael Emerson)
Best Original Screenplay (Dan Futterman)
Best Cinematography (Adam Kimmel)
Best Editing (Dylan Tichenor)

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