Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Bailee Madison, Taylor Geare, Sam Shepard, Mare Winningham
Tommy: When I was, like, 17 or 18, I used to listen to this song, like, over and over again.
Grace: Me too.
Grace: Why is that so surprising?
Tommy: I dunno…I just…I took you more for, like, an Nsync fan.
Grace: F*** you!
After his brother, Sam (Maguire), is killed in Afghanistan, Tommy (Gyllenhaal) helps look after Sam’s wife, Grace (Portman), and two daughters. Tommy grows very close to them, but then it’s discovered that Sam is alive and returning home. Shell-shocked from the horrors he was witness to in Afghanistan, Sam has trouble re-entering his normal life. He also has trouble believing that Tommy and Grace didn’t grow closer than they will admit to.
I had seen some of the original version of this movie a few years ago, but only enough to know a few of the plot twists. I’m not sure if the original had the same non-ending as this one, but the last 10 minutes or so of this version knocked it down a peg or two for me.
It starts off well enough, despite Maguire maybe being a little miscast. He still does an okay job, while Gyllenhaal and Portman work well together. The kid actors are quite good too. Bailee Madison, as Isabelle, is particularly convincing.
There’s a certain subtlety to most of the movie that I thought worked well. There weren’t a lot of overblown Oscar moments…at least not right up until the end. Then things kind of explode just before the credits suddenly roll.
I found this to be a more interesting war movie than another from last year, The Hurt Locker (you may have heard of it). In this movie, Sam doesn’t want to return to the war because he’s addicted to it (as in THL), but because he doesn’t feel like he belongs in his old life anymore. The previously irresponsible Tommy has grown up and taken on a fatherly role to Sam’s kids. They like him more than their real dad now. It’s sad, and you feel for the very lost Sam, especially after what he went through overseas (which I won’t spoil for you).
As I mentioned, the ending left me wanting to see more, but overall, I enjoyed it. Yeah, Natalie Portman being in it helped, but that’s not the only reason it was good!
Make sure your brother’s really dead before thou goes coveting his wife.
10 – 1.3 because I didn’t think the ending worked very well – 1 for dragging a bit here and there – .4 because I didn’t think Maguire was exactly right for the part + .2 for Natalie = 7.5