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« Silent Chambers and Spider Webs in "Throne of Blood" | Main | Willem Dafoe: a man for all seasons »
Tuesday
Apr262016

Throw Me to the Wolves

Team Experience from the Tribeca Film Festival - here's Jason on "Wolves."

After walking out of the screening a good friend asked me incredulously what on Earth drew me, me of all people, to go see the basketball slash gambling coming-of-age drama Wolves - I'm not exactly the choice audience for sports stories. But my answer was quick and easy: Michael Shannon and Carla Gugino, of course! And as such, Wolves is worth seeing. Those two play the parents of Anthony (a solid Taylor John Smith) and if you've ever dug watching them work, here they work! Overtime!

What they have to work with is a bit, as they say, well-worn: Shannon's father figure is a gambling addict and Gugino's mama bear has been putting up with that for too long. The film (written and directed by Bart Freundlich aka Mr Julianne Moore) leans hard on those tropes, but it also stares down with honesty and heart (mostly) and the performers are excellent enough to overcome, and carve their initials on them. It all leads pretty much where you think it will, down the court on the ever counting clock, but the circuitous route's (mostly) worth traveling.

One big exception -- there's an older basketball playing gentleman called (sigh) Socrates that fits the so-called "Magical Negro" mold so rigidly it's like an unironic Mammy suddenly stumbled out of the bushes. Socrates has no reason whatsoever to go out of his way to teach this dopey kid, much less follow him around and dispense wisdom like an automaton, yet there he always is at just the right moment with no life or interests of his own save aiding Saint Anthony. Can we move past this please? Socrates' got his own shit, son.

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Reader Comments (4)

You forgot to name the actor playing the racial stereotype you're criticizing.

April 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

/3rtful -- I had his name (which is John Douglas Thompson) in my first draft, but then I had this sad visual of him googling his name and since he's relatively unknown it was likely that this mention would come up, and I didn't want to specifically pin the blame on him. Actors take the roles they can get and try to make them work and it was the writing's, not the performance's, fault.

April 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I always wonder about these over familiar stories and tired tropes (like the magical negro) why no one involved ever says "haven't we seen this 100 times. how can we mix it up and make it new?" but I'd also probably watch this for carla gugino (so undervalued and so rarely asked to do anything interesting in a movie) & shannon.

April 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I remember being impressed by Bart Freundlich's film The Myth of Fingerprints (I believed that's where he and his wife met-- she gives her usual great performance). But his films since always seem to receive mixed reviews.

April 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBiggs

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