Nominated for Best Picture at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Cinematography (Greig Fraser) at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Original Score at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Honestly, I haven’t known quite what to make of the hit art film “Lion” ever since first experiencing it recently. After all, I’m not made of stone, and I do have a heart. “Lion” certainly has an emotional finale that promotes tears. I’m not immune…Mark Leonard cried. HOWEVER–couldn’t first-time feature director Garth Davis, and screenwriter Luke Davies, figure out something more interesting for the movie’s slog of a 2nd half? I mean, the last hour plays like a commercial for Google Maps! And let’s not fall into the convenience of the “based on a true story” trap. Stories based on non-fiction are often riddled with untruths. See: “Argo”. Maybe “Lion” isn’t dishonest…I don’t know. But what I DO know, is that after a fine start, we end up with a muddled latter portion that’s stuffed with all the big movie stars. Often, less is more.
Five-year-old Saroo (adorable Sunny Pawar) accompanies older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) to a train station in India, so they can scrounge for money to bring home to their mother and siblings. Guddu initially shows resistance to bringing Saroo, because of his tender age. When Saroo eventually gets too tired, Guddu leaves him to sleep on a station bench, and says he’ll return for him soon. When Saroo awakens, Guddu is nowhere to be found. Saroo’s wanderings to locate his big brother get him into a variety of mishaps, including attempted abduction. This after riding a train that deposits him far from home. Eventually ending up in an orphanage, he is adopted by an Australian couple. Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham) raise Saroo to young adulthood in Tasmania. A now grownup Saroo (a solid Dev Patel) decides to study hotel management in Melbourne, where he begins dating American student, Lucy (Rooney Mara, in a thankless role). Soon, Saroo begins searching for his biological family, and tries to track his poverty-stricken past.
Again–I get it. This story is wonderful and heartbreaking in many ways. I’ll bet the book that it’s based on (“A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose) is a captivating read. It’s the execution of the film that irks me. Garth Davis didn’t have the finesse to make the transition of the two halves a smooth one. The last hour is often leaden. Dev Patel is actually fine as the adult Saroo, but I’m still pondering what Nicole Kidman was trying to convey with her off-key performance. It showed a usually strong actress making unconvincing choices. Plus, I found myself angered by the throwaway role given to the perpetually excellent Rooney Mara. Her scenes with Patel were filled with predictable dialogue and clichéd scenarios. Of course, things perk up a bit for the sentimental finale. Listen, I love the tale of this odyssey. But its cinematic handling needed more experienced hands at the controls. Still…not without merit.