Revisiting The Sweet Hereafter – The Best Film of the 1990’s

Why do I get that sinking feeling when thinking about great films from the 1990s?

Why do I get that sinking feeling when thinking about great films from the 1990's?

There is no such thing as a simple list.

The 1990’s proved to be as ponderous as it was wondrous when looking back on its contributions to cinema.  It was the decade where I came of age as a film buff, but many of its films that seemed at the time to speak so strongly to my generation just haven’t held up that well to scrutiny as years have passed.  It was a decade that saw one of the most original filmmakers of the 1980’s, David Lynch, do his most astounding work on television with Twin Peaks.  In film, the Coen Brothers hit their stride while a contemplative Canuck (Atom Egoyan) and an insane Dane (Lars Von Trier) reached career pinnacles.  Meanwhile, emerging from the British Isles were the classically refined works of Anthony Minghella and Sam Mendes.  But it was in the Coen Brothers’ America where many saw a mini-Renaissance.  Unlike the 1970’s, which produced a plethora of auteurs (Scorsese, Spielberg, De Palma, Coppola, Lucas) who were birthed in formal film schools, the 1990’s saw the emergence of a new generation of auteurs (Tarantino, PT Anderson, Fincher, Spike Jonze) who developed their styles first by working in music videos or by being products of their own self-guided fan-boy obsessed film clubs after dropping out of film school. Continue reading

A Review of Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration”

Devon Bostick and Scott Speedman wonder if they'll serve cheese and wine after all this violin playing.

Devon Bostick and Scott Speedman wonder if they'll serve cheese and wine after all this violin playing.

Interesting Dramatic Experiment
7/10
Author: David H. Schleicher

A teenager (Devon Bostick) who was orphaned after the tragic deaths of his parents is prompted by his teacher (Arsinee Khanjian) to deliver a fictional monologue about his father’s failed terrorist act as fact in an elaborate “dramatic exercise” in Armenian-Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s latest thought-provoking piece of abstraction Adoration.  As the fiction spins out of control over the internet, the true motives of those involved in the lie are revealed and back-stories come collapsing in on each other in Egoyan’s signature elliptical style.

Egoyan, as always, gives patient viewers plenty to chew on. Like the young man’s monologue that marries a true story to a false one about his parents, Adoration itself is an interesting dramatic experiment designed to provoke. It tackles many issues including the motives of terrorists, fractured familial relationships, the hollowness of alleged connections made through modern technology and the dangers of thinking those connections can replace real face-to-face human interaction. Though I always question Egoyan’s motive in casting his wife Arsinee Khanjian in his films, in many ways, she gives her most understated and powerful performance here. Bostick does a decent job with a tough role, though Rachel Blanchard is curiously flat in the flashbacks as his mother. The true revelation is Scott Speedman as the troubled tow-truck driver who reluctantly steps in to raise his sister’s son after she dies. His story arc proves to be the most involving, though one wishes his background had been more developed.

The bizarre detour into sleazy mediocrity with Where the Truth Lies seems to have made Egoyan a little rusty as he returns to a more familiar form here for those who have been watching the arc of his career. The elliptical folding in of the converging plot lines seems clumsier in Adoration than it did in his earlier works, and the “big reveal” comes a few scenes too early and sucks out the emotional impact. Unlike Exotica which had the swagger of a young auteur at the top of his game, or The Sweet Hereafter which came from the sublime source material of novelist Russell Banks, Adoration represents Egoyan bruised from years of wear left to his own devices. Though compelling, he gets the best of himself and let’s the ideas take over the characters. He also relies far too much on visuals of non-characters in chat rooms or of people being recorded with cameras. However, Egoyan scores when Mychael Danna lends his musical compositions. The frequent collaborator does a magnificent job creating a haunting score with a recurring violin motif that plays integral to one of the back-stories.

Back in the late 1990’s Atom Egoyan was in a league of his own and master of his own style. In the past ten years, however, international cinema has seen the emergence of filmmakers like Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel) and Germany’s Fatih Akin (whose superb The Edge of Heaven deserved a bigger audience stateside last year). They often tackle similar themes in an elliptical Egoyanesque manner.  But because their films are presented on a larger scale and infused with a certain energy and immediacy, Egoyan’s films, in all their isolated scholarly austerity, have been unfairly left out in the cold.   Adoration  may not be Egoyan’s best, but it proves he still has some good ideas in him and he isn’t ready to be dismissed just yet.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

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Check out my reviews of other Egoyan films:

Exotica (1994)

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Ararat (2002)

Where the Truth Lies (2005)