In The Bedroom (2001)

(In theaters, February 2002) Another one of those “actor’s movies”, focusing more on intimate drama than out-and-out conflict. Here, sharp words have the emotional impact of a nuclear detonation. Bad things happen to ordinary people, and the film essentially follows the consequence of the resulting grief. It’s long and leisurely paced, which occasionally helps in getting in the characters’ mind, and occasionally hinders as nothing seems to happen for a long, long time. The title promises a touch of voyeurism, and indeed we get tight close-ups, revealing character traits and an emphasis on so-called normality. While the film may initially seem disconnected and sloppy, closer attention reveals a superior depth of background information and many clever touches. (One of the best being a framed photo of a lawyer, his wife and their dogs leading to a devastating “You don’t!” reply. Blink and you’ll miss it.) But even being generous doesn’t mitigate the overall blahness of the film, which plays things so low-key that they risk being invisible. Marisa Tomei turns in a good performance, but seemingly disappears from the narrative during the last quarter. It’s a good family drama, but most viewers already suspect the limits of that genre.

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