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Posts Tagged ‘“Wildlife”’

Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, JakeGyllenhaal

“WILDLIFE”  My rating: B+

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Wildlife,” the  mesmerizing directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, people — adults, anyway — are perplexing creatures.

A father loses his job at a country club and instead of launching a job search abandons his family for immensely dangerous and low-paying work fighting forest fires. The bitter mother flips almost overnight from June Cleaver domesticity to provocative sexuality.

These near-radical personality changes are hard to fathom — until you realize that Dano’s film (co-written with actress Zoe Kazan from Richard Ford’s novel) centers on the perceptions of the couple’s 14-year-old son. Seen through the kid’s bewildered and traumatized eyes, even the slightest change in familial surroundings registers like an earthquake.

Set in the early 1950s, the film begins with Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) losing his job as the golf pro in a small Montana town.  His wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), who never wanted to move there in the first place, does her best to beef up Jerry’s battered ego and even rejoins the workforce, teaching adult swim classes at the local Y.

All this is tremendously worrying for their 14-year-old son, Joe (a spectacularly good Ed Oxenbould). It’s hard seeing your once-upbeat dad sinking into depression and ennui. And while Mom seems to be enjoying her new economic independence, even that has a downside. She’s not at home all that much.

But Joe’s a good kid and, to help prop up the family’s failing fortunes, signs on as an assistant at the local photographic portrait studio.

Jerry’s decision to join a firefighting crew battling the stubborn blaze — which has burned for weeks in a nearby mountain range, threatening the town not only with flames but lung-congesting smoke — comes as a shock to Jeanette and Joe.  People are getting burned up fighting the conflagration.

“What kind of man leaves his wife and child in such a lonely place?” Jeanette seethes. The poetic theatricality of that line of dialogue (would your average wife phrase it in just that way?) suggests it has been refliltered through Joe’s tormented imagination and memory.

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