When was the last time you were in a theater and the audience gasped aloud, not because an alien burst though a body, or someone's head exploded-- but merely because a character DREW a gun?
That's how real director Todd Fields' excellent film "In the Bedroom" plays. Adapted from a story by Catholic novelist Andre Dubus called "The Killing," it's like spying on a family during a wrenching situation. Unlike "A Beautiful Mind," however, this is a study of moral failure during crisis.
Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek play Dr. Matt Fowler and his wife Ruth. They live a pleasant Yankee existence in a small Maine town until their college bound son Frank begins dating an older woman (Marisa Tomei) with two children-- but has not quite divorced her brutal husband yet.
Ruth disapproves, but only offers practical, not moral, reasons. Matt eggs Frank on, getting mild vicarious thrills, while playing grandpa to the kids. When a shocking tragedy strikes, the consequences of the lack of moral and spiritual center to the family are revealed.
This is a dark and disturbing movie, but not an existential art film. Life isn't pointless here, but it can be empty. At one point, Matt has a chance to bring goodness out of tragedy when one of the children comes to see him; but he shrugs and goes about his vengeful business.
Wilkinson is Russell Crowe's strongest competition for Best Actor, and Spacek is a shoe in. Marisa Tomei might win her second Oscar-- after her surprise for the comedic "My Cousin Vinnie."
I hope "Lord of the Rings" wins Best Picture and Best Director, but don't count out either of these two fine films in either category. Between them, they are sure to clean up in the acting categories-- except for Ian McKellen as Gandalf HAS to be the favorite.