SNOW ANGELS Written and directed by David Gordon Green, from the novel by Stewart O’Nan, with Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale and Michael Angarano. A Warner release. 104 minutes. Opens Friday (March 21). Rating: NNN
Sometimes an actor tries too hard. Or maybe he just gives us too much.
That’s the problem with Sam Rockwell’s performance in Snow Angels. As Glenn, the born-again one-time drunk and suicidal dad ditched by wife Annie (Kate Beckinsale), Rockwell sobs, prays, bangs his head against the wall – anything for that Oscar buzz.
It reminds me of Chandra Wilson’s screamfest in a pre-writers’ strike episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which the head resident reacts to seeing her young son unconscious on a gurney. As the wailing goes on and on, you feel like she might as well be hollering, “Gimme my Emmy!”
Hey guys, chill.
A good performance requires nuance, something Snow Angels director David Gordon Green doesn’t always grasp. His story of small-town emotional breakdown wants to be Mystic River – without the Boston accent or the sexual abuse – but unlike Clint Eastwood, Green lets his characters and the story wallow.Elements of Snow Angels are terrific. Beckinsale is superbly edgy as a mom losing control of her temper – and her life. Her relationships to her child and friend Barb (Amy Sedaris) are developed in refreshingly real ways.
And Michael Angarano has just the right touch of awkwardness and charm as the teenager enduring the breakup of his parents’ marriage. As Arthur, he benefits from the new trend among filmwriters toward taking teens seriously.
In films like Juno and Charlie Bartlett, these kids are getting it on in ways that are sweet without being cloying. They’re also played by some excellent young actors. Kat Dennings, as Charlie Bartlett’s love interest, is one to watch, and Snow Angels’ Olivia Thirlby (also Juno’s best friend) is disarmingly compelling.
Too bad director Green doesn’t know when to turn down the intensity in this gripping story. We know when Glenn belts back multiple shots at the bar that he’s getting really drunk. We don’t need another two minutes of him dancing deliriously.
And the sequence that reveals who fired the shots heard at the beginning of the film is too long and too explicit.
Subtlety works, you know.