Frozen River (2008)


This won the Sundance Grand Jury prize. A lot of critics like Richard Schickel of Time, Roger Ebert and Kenneth Turan really liked the film. The metacritic score was 82 and the imdb score was 7.3. I didn’t like this, and I was not going to recommend this to any of you, but I changed my mind. The main reason is that the film successes hinges on something that is very subjective. To me, this part of the film utterly did not work for me, while the critics seemed to love this aspect of the film. The film could get a 4, but I’m giving it a 3 because it was really boring. (Larri didn’t care for this.) The film didn’t insult my intelligence of make me wonder why the filmmakers even bothered. The film had potential, but it was boring.

The film is about a single parent mother, Ray (Melissa Leo) who desparately needs money, after her husband ran off with the money she saved to buy a new trailer house for her two kids. Out of this desperation and through chance, she has the opportunity to make extra money by smuggling illegal aliens from Canada to NY. I heard one description compare the film to Thelma and Louise and there is a connection in that the two main characters involved in criminal or anti-social behavior.

Sometimes pinpointing the source of failure for a film is difficult, but in this case, I feel confident that the acting (casting) is the reason the film doesn’t work. Except for the lead–who has some decent acting moments of anguish and the perfect physical look for her character–a lot of the actors seem like amateurs, people who would star in community theater. The script is not that great either and the direction is not very noteworthy, but the film could have been interesting if the acting was good. If this had been cast well–with good actors that fit the role–this could have been good or even very good. The relationship between the Ray (Melissa Leo) and Lila (Misty Upham) are critical, as well as the relationship between Ray and her son, TJ (Charlie McDermott). But the characters and relationship fail to be convincing or interesting, primarily because of the acting. This is a very subjective sort of judgment, however, so I can see people having a different opinion.

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