March 20, 2016

The Girl in the Book

The Girl in the Book (2015) stars Emily Vancamp (Revenge) as a young woman who was molested by an older man during her teen years. That man, an author and family friend, used some of their inappropriate relationship experiences in his debut novel that went on to become a huge best seller.

Many years later, Vancamp is now working in the publishing industry when the publisher decides to do a re-release of her molester's book and she suddenly finds herself having to work with him. This causes the past to come flooding back and she realizes that her troubled childhood has always been the root of her relationship and personal problems. If she doesn't do something about it, she will forever live in the shadow of her past, and be nothing more than the dreaded girl in the book.

This story is told using a flashback narrative where it jumps back and forth between past and present. At first she's just an aspiring writer who wants some help from the big shot author, but things quickly turn bad when the man finds himself unable to resist putting his hands on her. This leads to some very disturbing, though brief, scenes.

While I did think the movie was interesting, it lacked a solid conclusion. It puts the focus mainly on Vancamp getting over a traumatic experience, but at no time does it ever mention pressing charges or outing the man for the pedophile that he was. Part of this has to do with her parents brushing things off as teenage fantasy, but on the other hand it also shows how hard it is sometimes for young victims to come forward. Either way, it was a fascinating premise but could have been further developed.

March 16, 2016

The Keeping Room

The Keeping Room (2015) is an independent film set during the end of the Civil War when General Sherman's troops were moving through the Carolinas destroying as much as possible in their path. It focuses on two sisters and a slave girl who are struggling to survive when hell comes to town in the form of two yankee scouts that are raping and murdering their way through the area. It's part thriller, part home invasion horror movie, part shoot 'em up, and part historical fiction that all comes together in a slow burn kind of dreadful but very well done film.

Brit Marling, an up and coming actress with much promise, plays the lead as the older sister trying to keep things together. Oscar nominee Hailee Stanfield plays her younger teen sister who isn't all that helpful at first. Muna Otaru plays the slave who is as much part of the family as anyone else. The most recognizable cast member is Sam Worthington as one of the vicious scouts who can't resist going after Marling in the worst way. This was directed by Daniel Barber, who previously did the excellent revenge thriller Harry Brown with Michael Caine.

I enjoy stories about the Civil War and particularly liked that this one portrayed the northerners as villains given the context. The two scouts were so twisted from their war experience that they'd lost a part of their humanity and were on a rampage partially because it was so easy for them to get away with it. The overall tone of this film is rather dark, but it has some strong moments coupled with great acting all around. Marling does a great job carrying the movie and it's only a matter of time before she becomes a household name. This movie is definitely worth seeing, especially for the final wide angle shot right before the credits roll.