Animal Kingdom (Australia, 2010, David Michod)
The character played by Guy Pearce in Animal Kingdom wears a moustache. It may very well be that the actor grew an actual moustache to play the part. It looks real enough. Yet, at the same time, it looks - not exactly phoney - like it's not truly on his face somehow. Not that it doesn't belong there. Rather that it would be perfectly fine if it was there; obviously, convincingly, fittingly fuzz there. But it's not.
I feel this way about the entire movie. I am of the opinion that it is badly written in the first place. It is not built on a solid script. Not the dialogue, which is reliably naturalistic and credible, nor the conflict dynamics in this or that scene, which were sometimes arrestingly realistic. No, it's the narrative in its entirety that is crappy. It lacks essential connections in the plot. The reliance in the writing is instead on inference, which in turns rests on too many improbable contrivances, unexplained premises and loose ends that unravel in no particular direction at all. The result is the rendering of what would otherwise be real-all-too-real-characters into caricatures of how people might behave in such true-to-life situations. Be certain that my critique is not simply technical, as if the problem was merely mechanical with respect to story-telling. Animal Kingdom is the sort of film-making that comes from sophomoric confusion about cinema veite being the trappings of a style instead of a source for existential substance.
At the heart of the film - and what makes it as interesting as it manages to be - is all of the social dysfunction. In the family most especially. But also within the police department and out on the streets, so therefore throughout society as a whole. While this dysfunctionality is perfectly legitimate to examine thematically, Animal Kingdom has form mirror content (rather than content dictate form) such that the aesthetic object itself takes on a dysfunctional incoherence. And by "incoherence" I do not mean to imply that the film is unintelligible. I mean rather to state that it just doesn't hang together and it just doesn't hang together because it pretentiously attempts to make a virtue of its own narrative failings. By analogy, it's like the faux-doc, hand-held jerkiness of The Blair Witch Project trying to pass itself off as the genuinely suspenseful story-boarding of a Hitchcock piece.
Too bad. There are some remarkable powerful bits in Animal Kingdom, most of them in the first half before the weight of the thing starts to pile up on itself, but even the second half has its moments. Plus a few excellent performances; most notably the work of the woman playing the mother, what a twisted Ma Barker she is! And when the protagonist finally breaks down privately in the bathroom, it's heavy man. Because he is such a damaged and vacant soul the rest of the time. This ethical absenteeism reminded of The River's Edge (1986), another film centered on the young with a grim atmosphere of inescapably amoral grime. But just as the protagonist announces from the outset that crime doesn't pay, in Animal Kingdom grime doesn't play. At least, I'm not willing to pay for its grime because it is no play.
The trailer is before ye: