Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Rimers of Eldritch

Author(s): Anthony Austin
Location: TX

"The Rimers of Eldritch"

Directed by: Steven Daldry
Written by: Todd Field (Screenplay) and Lanford Wilson (play)
Cinematography by: John Toll
Original Score by: James Newton Howard

Main Cast

Robert Conklin - Ryan Kelley
Eva Jackson - AnnaSophia Robb
Skelly Mannor - Forest Whitaker
Evelyn Jackson - Jennifer Aniston
Nelly Windrod - Amy Ryan
Mary Windrod - Ellen Burnstyn
Patsy Johnson - Evan Rachel Wood
Mavis Johnson - Bette Middler
Peck Johnson - Jon Voight
Josh Johnson - Lucas Grabeel
Lena Truit - Hayden Panittiere
Martha Truit - Lisa Ann Walter
Wilma Atkins -Alison Janney
Cora Graves - Felicity Huffman
Walter - James Franco

Tagline: "The thin line between Angels and Demons is drawn upon the lips from which the truth comes"
"It's not what is said, but what is left unsaid"

Synopsis: Eldritch is a small town in the Bible Belt that is falling apart. It's a town built on the ruins of a young star's death: a race car driver. See, nobody born in Eldritch makes anything of themselves...except for "Driver." The famed race car driver, who just when his chance to greet the world met him, lost it all in a car accident. But something far more sinister has born itself on the town on the wake of a murder...

Skelly Mannor, the elderly town "idiot" and "outcast" has been shot and killed by Nelly Windrod, who prevented him from attacking young children Robert, the simple brother of "Driver", and Eva, a crippled girl. Nelly is seen as a saint, especially since she deals daily with her aging, dimming, crazy old mother, who comes up with stories about how her daughter abuses her, and spreads it throughout the town. It's nice to be rid of Skelly...he peered through windows, and stared at the young girls of the town, or so Patsy Johnson, the pretty and sweet high school cheerleader, said to her parents. He was a fiend. His only protector and friend was Cora Graves, who ran the Hilltop Cafe on the edge of town. But what could she do to save his name, being a whore herself? Being close to forty and taking in a strange twenty-something named Walter to help her "run her shop", when really all he did was pleasure her. This is the truths which the town carried on about.

And of course...true...truth takes a bit longer to see. Imagine the film's plot being written on playing cards...ripped to pieces, then flung across a room, then laid out, just as they fell, then played in that order.

Hiding within the town's dying ruins are it's dying inhabitants...and the real truths: Nelly beats her mother and blames the bruises on her falling down the stairs. Patsy is a whore who just wants out of the town. Cora thinks she's in love with Walter, when Walter spends his time sleeping with the younger girls in town, like Patsy. Eva's mother Evelyn proclaims her daughter a virgin, but spends her time screaming at her, telling her God hates her...that is until she sees an opportunity to proclaim herself a saint after her daughter's attack by Skelly. Then Patsy becomes pregnant, and Walter leaves town, leaving Cora alone again. And finally, the darkest secret of all, is that Robert tries to rape Eva, and it's Skelly that tries to save her, and Nelly shoots him. And while Cora pleads the town to listen that "Skelly was good and honest...just misunderstood," Robert's lies convince the town that Skelly was every bad thing in the world.

As the film evolves, the dark characters become the ones we love, and we see them crumble just as the town does, dying with it's evil angels and goodly demons. By the end of the film, we see a society familiar to our own, with some grieving, some humbled, and some just living life like they always do. Every single character has a secret, and it's not about what is said during the movie, but what is never said.

Always shocking, and yet always brilliant, The Rimers of Eldritch leaves nothing buried, and nobody safe.

What the Press would say:

"It is a simple one. A mystery, really. A man has been murdered. The mystery is, who he is, who murdered him and what were the circumstances? And to solve it, Wilson looks at the outsides and insides of his tiny, Middle Western town. He looks at a middle-aging woman who falls in love with the young man who comes to work in her cafe. He looks at a coarse, nasty woman mistreating her senile mother, who is obsessed with visions of Eldritch being evil and headed for blood-spilling. He looks at a tender relationship between a young man and a dreamy, crippled girl. But Wilson sees far more than this. He is grasping the very fabric of Bible Belt America, with its catchword morality ("virgin," "God-fearing") and its capability for the vicious. He senses the rhythm of its life and the cruelty it can impose. He understands the speech patterns of its loveless gossips, its sex-hungry boys, its compassionless preachers, its car-conscious blondes. In the end his portrait of Eldritch is full length, and the truth of its revelations will be pondered long after the stage lights have dimmed and the play has ended." - Martin Gottfried

The play Rimers of Eldritch finally makes the big screen, and it truly is a daunting film. It's marvelous. It's brooding. It's surprising. It's heartfelt. And it's shocking.

The amazing thing about the performances in the film is how we see each of the characters at first, and then how we see them by the end. The change is remarkable. It's like everything we know and like about each of them is shifted around by the end of it. We see a quirky mother annoying her "poor" daughter, and yet, as the movie progresses, we feel for the mother as she is secretly abused by the daughter. We see a young cheerleader named Patsy, only wanting to leave the town, turn into a whore and liar just to save her own neck. We see a brewing relationship between a diner owner and the boy she takes in, only to discover the boy wants nothing permanent. We see the town "monster" turn into a misunderstood and lovable man, and two innocent children become the lying devils in a case that tears the town in half. And We see so much more.

Every one of the performances is worth noting... especially with how each character changes and surprises us. The two young leads are Robb and Kelley, and both are superb. Kelley especially, with his dark scene at the end, with after being always compared to his deceased brother, tries to rape Robb. And then the scene at the very end where he flat out lies that Skelly attacked him and Eva. We watch him lie his way into being noticed, after being in the shadows of Driver all the years before, and just being "Driver Junior". Then there is Forest Whitaker as Skelly. Whitaker is at first terrifying, then lovable...a transformation that would make other actors seem silly, but really makes us feel for Skelly, especially when he meets his untimely death. Jennifer Aniston finally gives a performance worth seeing as she shows herself as the mother seeking people's approval of herself. She uses her daughter as a way to show that she is "giving up so much for God", just because she wants to be appreciated and revered.

Amy Ryan is stunning and dark as the murderer of Skelly. She once again transforms herself, and in some fantastic scenes, shows just how evil a "saintly" woman can be. She hides so well everything that Nelly hides, and yet we know it's there. As her mother, Ellen Burnstyn, much like Skelly, makes us feel for her creepy, but at times hilariously funny, mother character, who foresees the blood to come in town, and just wants everything to be back to good. This is easily her best performance since Requiem for A Dream, with some light-hearted monologues that balance out the rest of the gorgeous film.

As Patsy, Evan Rachel Wood reminds me of her performance in Pretty Persuasion. Once again, we hate her. Simply hate her. Her chilling smiles and her bright voice that hides so much so well. Bette Middler, Jon Voight, and Lucas Grabeel are just supporting characters in her story, but each provide allot to her character, as they worship her. Her friend, Lena, is played superbly by Hayden Pannittiere, as the friend who is pursued by Grabeel. Lena obviously is a good girl being pulled by Patsy into the dark world she resides in. It's terrible to watch Lena crumble and fall at Patsy's feet, as she follows her every move. By the time Patsy has been impregnated by Walter, Lena is the only person Patsy has, and still Lena stays by her. Patsy cries as she tells Lena she's sorry for everything she's done, but it's obvious Lena is just the person she needs at that moment. The two gossipers of the town are Alison Janney and Lisa Ann Walter, and they are essential in showing just how much of the story is twisted, but nothing to shocking happens with them.

Finally, there is Cora (Huffman) and Walter (Franco), the talk of the town. Huffman gives a brilliant performance, and possible the most honest and noble character in the film...she's just badmouthed all over the place. She wants so badly to love Walter, but Walter is a wanderer. Their scenes are nothing short of brilliance, as Huffman talks of the future, Franco's eyes show the dim signs that he's not ready for it. And in a breathtaking scene where Huffman realizes Walter's gone for good, she breaks down and sobs, only to stand up a minute later, compose herself, and once again begins cleaning and whistling, forgetting the love every happened. Franco also mesmerized me, especially in the scene where he discovers Patsy is pregnant. The pain of the relationship is that Walter discovers he DOES care about Cora, but Patsy warns him she'll tell Cora what he's "really like", and Walter splits.

There are so many fantastic moments, with so much of the acting being played when nothing is being said. The directing is gorgeous, as we weave through the town in dark greens and blues. The cinematography creates a rusty old town with secrets. It's not a fast paced nor slow paced, and has a script nothing short of haunting.

A breathtaking look at strong characters and dark moments in a town's life, The Rimers of Eldritch is a movie that will stick with you.

For Your Consideration:

Best Picture
Best Director: (Todd Field)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: (Ryan Kelley)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: (Forest Whitaker)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: (James Franco)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: (Amy Ryan)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: (Ellen Burnstyn)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: (Felicity Huffman)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: (Evan Rachel Wood)
Best Adapted Screenplay

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