Sunday, October 24, 2010

Austin Film Fest - "Conviction"

Conviction - 3.5/5

When Tony Goldwyn set out to make a film about the Betty-Anne Waters story, many may have balked at the idea of yet another schmaltzy, overly saccharine "based on the inspiring true story" kind of awards bait fluff we've become jaded and numb to in the fall movie season. But really, the end result is never manipulative, sentimental, or cheesy. In fact, I quite liked the film, a lot actually. After a night of emotional trauma with "Blue Valentine", a film that made me feel good about humanity at the end was just was the doctor ordered. And the film just works.

Never once did I feel like it was going for the heartstrings in a manner that wasn't authentic and, dare I say, restrained. The film has a quiet reserve to it. Goldwyn is a smart enough actor, director, and producer to avoid delving into histrionics or overwrought emotional signposts. It's a simple story about how the bond between a brother and sister led Betty Anne Waters to spend the better part of nearly 20 years getting an education and getting into law school to become her brother's attorney so that she could free an innocent man from jail. The end result is a compelling, often moving but never over the top drama that, dare I say, got to me in a good way. It's bricks and mortar filmmaking. No flash, no distinct style here. Just a good story told well. The cast largely rests on the shoulders of Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, and Minnie Driver.

Each actor gives a very authentic performance, with Sam Rockwell as the standout. I can't say it's career best work (that would be his tour de force turn in "Moon"), he's not doing anything we haven't seen before, but his raw talent, charisma, and likability as an actor shine here. If this is the role that finally lands him his first oscar nomination, then I'd be perfectly happy with that. He delivers in a natural way.

And really, that's kind of what got me about the film. It's simple, organic storytelling that just delivers on the promise of a feel-good triumphant story. It's not great art, but it's a harmless film that is just agreeable and well-made. There's a bit of trimming that probably could have been done to make it a tighter affair, but it flows so naturally I can't really put my finger on what might be dragging it down. It's a light enough film that I could easily recommend it.

As always, have at it in the comments section.


elizagolightly said...

I was wondering about that movie and I am glad to know it turned out ok. Interesting.

Matt Bukaty said...

I couldn't agree more. I really don't have anything to add haha

mombot said...

Since you've had such glowing things to say about Sam Rockwell (I've seen "Moon" and thought his performance in that needs more notice), I will try and find this film and go see it. Currently, it's not showing anywhere nearby. Damn.

Sales on Film said...

Wow, I actually completely agree with you for once.

I'd only add Juliette Lewis' stand out scene near the end--a wonderful five minute performance.

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