2008 OSCAR NOMINEES
This is the third film I've seen in the few days that is essentially the story of family members arguing like the dickens through a haze of cigarette smoke. But it's the only one I found truly absorbing. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are uniformly excellent as a couple in the mid 1950s whose marriage is on the rocks after the birth of their two kids. It's about hope and disillusionment, love and infidelity, honesty and lies, and a final act of desperation that changes their lives forever. In the decade that has passed since American Beauty, director Sam Mendes has lost none of his power to provoke and intrigue. Unusually, the kids have virtually no screen time—I never got the sense that these people actually had any children, as they are more alluded to than actually seen. Also, the musical score (by Thomas Newman) sounded distractingly like another one of his soundtracks. But these are minor quibbles. This movie is worth seeing for the performances alone. Amazingly, it is actor Michael Shannon, playing a guy with psychological issues, who won the film's only major Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actor); DiCaprio was unfairly snubbed. Zoe Kazan has a couple of nice scenes as a secretary Leo beds (we get a brief glimpse of her lovely breasts), and I was convinced that DiCaprio's boss was played by Jeff Daniels, but it turned out to be an actor named Jay O. Sanders. Rating: 4/5.