Two last Brothers reviews for you today. The first is very positive and from another of my favourite film writers, Devin Faraci.
Also strong is Natalie Portman. Stuck in a role that’s half thankless she manages to find the quiet strength in this smalltown girl facing unthinkable tragedy. Lots of characters in the film acknowledge how beautiful she is – finally! A movie where the super pretty Hollywood types are actually super pretty! – but she never feels like an LA type making a visit to a small town. She may be smarter than my prejudices tell me a cheerleader who marries a football player turned Marine would be, but she’s got the inner stability that I find believable in a mother of two. Portman doesn’t go for cheap histrionics and plays Grace as a character who keeps it together, turning her grief into catatonia. She also has a great rapport with Gyllenhaal; the scenes of their ‘courtship,’ such as it is, ring true and believable.
Most of the reviews that I’ve come across have been very impressed with Natalie’s performance, however its safe to say that Dana Stevens of Slate feels somewhat differently.
Her mixed review can be found here but it’s her paragraph about Natalie that really stands out.
Unfortunately, [the movie] also assumes that Natalie Portman is interesting enough to watch suffer for two hours. Here I come up against what I’m fully willing to admit may be a personal limitation … I’ve never believed her in a single role. She evokes no emotional response in me beyond, “Oh, there’s Natalie Portman.” She doesn’t overact or underact; she just stands around with whatever the appropriate expression for the scene seems to be on her sweet, pretty, childlike face. If there’s something going on behind that face, I neither know nor care what it is, which means that long stretches of Brothers involving her character’s interiority struck me as dramatically inert. If you possess the gene that enables Portman-caring, you may find them brilliant.
That dose of honesty was picked up by an opinion piece at the New York Times, which questioned whether Natalie’s best roles are when she’s playing child like characters.
I can’t really agree, being of the opinion that I think Natalie is actually at her best when she’s playing colder, but its an interesting opinion all the same.