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Nominated for Best Picture at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Director (Lenny Abrahamson) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Actress (Brie Larson) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Emma Donoghue) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

I liked a good, solid portion of the critically-acclaimed “Room”. And then…they left the room. That’s when all the trouble began, and where the inventive, tense, and very well-acted movie became weighted down with psycho-babbling predictability. That’s when characters were replaced by caricatures, and everyone was given a broad, audience-pandering arc. Too bad, because I like Brie Larson a lot, and I’m almost certain she’ll take home the Oscar for this (alas, poor Saoirse…). And I was extremely impressed with 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay. Very poised, very effective. But Emma Donoghue’s script (based on her 2010 novel of the same name) bales out on them mid-way.

Joy (the soon-to-be-crowned, Ms. Larson) and her 5-year-old son, Jack (young Master Tremblay), are held captive for years in a backyard shed that’s been designed like a tiny apartment. The man responsible for their imprisonment is a perverted psycho called Old Nick (a perfectly sleazy, Sean Bridgers). We soon learn that Old Nick is the father of Jack…therefore the little boy’s entire existence has been inside what Joy and Jack call ‘Room’. Occasionally, Old Nick shows up at night for sexual favors from Joy, upon which she hides Jack in a closet. One day, Old Nick confesses to Joy that he’s lost his job, and that money is limited. Fearing for her and her son’s future safety…an escape plan is hatched.

That plot description is the stronger section of “Room”, and what follows may have worked better on the page. I hope it does anyway. William H. Macy has a brief role in the 2nd half, and the slipshod treatment of his character is troubling. Ditto, Tom McCamus, a fine actor, who’s performance is handled with the intention of making him a saint. Joan Allen, a wonderful actress, manages to find some nuance in her characterization, but her intended canonization is apparent too. Lenny Abrahamson’s direction is competent, but the plot devices morph mid-way into predictable and easy–and Mr. Abrahamson can’t overcome it. It’s not a bad film, and it’s highly watchable. But it’s a shame that it didn’t take more risks, and involve more complex characters. Then maybe it would’ve deserved the “great” label that some have already bestowed upon it. Or simply, if only “Room” had stayed true to its screen title.

Grade:  C+

next review up:  “The Danish Girl”



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