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Movie Reviews

Animal Kingdom



Released: 3rd June 2010

Director: David Michôd

Stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce

Certificate: 15

Reviewer: Kyle Coleman

As I was watching The Fighter the other day, I began wondering how the Academy chose Melissa Leo over Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress, an impossibly close decision, which led me to look up the other nominees. I recognized all but one, Jacki Weaver from Sundance Winner Animal Kingdom. Given both my love of film and my arguably deeper love of animals, I decided this one was right up my alley. (Spoiler alert: there aren’t any actual animals in the film, but don’t let that deter you.)

Animal Kingdom is a 2010 Australian film centering around a 17-year-old boy, Joshua “J” Cody, who loses his mother to a drug overdose, moves in with his estranged grandmother (Weaver) and gets mixed up in the “coming undone” of his felonious extended family. As the family situation becomes more and more strained, each character is looking out for his or her own interests, leading to brilliant character development and some very intense scenes.

There are an abundance of fine performances including breakout star James Fecheville, who plays a perfectly minimalistic role as a conflicted teenager. Caught between his own morality and the criminal proclivities of his family, Fecheville conveys more emotion through a seemingly expressionless face than I thought possible. His stoic demeanor follows him through most of the film and we can see emotions beginning to build up as the plot progresses, from sadness and confusion, to anger and revenge, and the toil finally becomes overwhelming enough to produce an impeccably acted emotional breakdown. I was very impressed with Fecheville and hope that I’ll be seeing his name in lights sometime soon.

Not to be outdone, previously mentioned Jacki Weaver gives an equally inspired performance as the grandmother “Smurf,” who puts forth a veneer of caring love that masks a borderline sociopathic personality. We understand her decision making process from beginning to end and although we may disagree with the choices she makes, her performance envelopes us in the mind of a grandmotherly criminal, something I have never experienced before.

J’s four uncles are compelling characters as well, two are maniacal crime bosses while the other two are caught in the middle, looking for a way out. I found myself hating the former while sympathizing with the latter, an impressive juxtaposition created by writer/director David Michôd. Throw in Guy Pearce as the lead detective in a murder case charged to the uncles, and this is one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory.

Michôd beautifully mixes fast-paced, plot progressing scenes with slower, character-driven and emotionally powerful scenes, creating a nice balance of action and drama. The score is also eerily dramatic and serves its purpose in the waning scenes when everything comes together and simultaneously falls apart, leading to the final line in the movie that could not be more apt: “It’s a crazy fuckin’ world.” See this film for the fine directing, the absorbing narrative or the impressive performances, either way you will not be disappointed.

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