Sunday, July 31, 2011

Movie Sunday: Animal Kingdom

Image from here

Some of you know I have a weakness for Australian movies, and this is a good one. It's sort of Napoleon Dynamite meets The Town. Not Napoleon Dynamite because it's funny; because it's not funny at all. But our protagonist is a mostly awkward, mostly silent teenager who lives with his grandmother. And who we want to succeed, while everything we know about the world tells us that he will not.

Our story begins with our young hero greeting the paramedics. His mother has overdosed on heroin and left the story, as it were. He calls his grandmother, who he hasn't seen in years, and she brings him to live with her. At the same time we meet his four uncles, who are crooks. We know the grandmother is not like yours or mine when she kisses one of her boys square on the lips, for longer than anyone should feel comfortable kissing their mother. As is common with good Australian films, the story that follows is personal, engaging, and tight. There is very little wasted motion in this film.

There is a fair amount of violence, and not car chase and explosion kind of violence. This is unvarnished and in person, without swelling background music or pithy quips. If you're a fan of The Wire, you know the sort of thing I mean. If you don't squirm in your seat at least once during this movie, I might worry about you.

While the story is very good, the characters are better, both in the way they were envisioned and their  portrayals by the cast. Some of the interactions are mesmerizing. I wasn't surprised to learn that the story was apparently inspired by a real Australian crime family.

This is the first film from writer and director David Michôd, though I suspect we will hear more from him. It has been critically acclaimed as they say, from awards at Sundance to an Oscar nomination for Jacki Weaver for her portrayal of the grandmother. She probably should have won.

This is not exactly what I would call a date movie, but if you're in the mood for a good drama, and you don't mind losing a few characters along the way, give Animal Kingdom a try.


  1. sounds like a good film when i need a bit of schadenfreude... my family annoys, but at least granny ain't creepy...

  2. I can't believe she didn't win an Oscar for this performance ((shiver)) -- bitch was a reptile...that itty-bitty voice and cold cold eyes...brilliant movie. The documentary 'Buck' is wonderful; went to it Friday. Think I'd rather overdose on too much movie-watching/alternate reality than live in my world lately anyway.