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Time Out New York Project: Issue #785, October 14-20, 2010
Dir. Tony Goldwyn. 2010. R. 106mins. Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver.
After her brother, Kenny (Rockwell), is imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit, Massachusetts housewife Betty Anne Waters (Swank) stops at nothing to prove his innocence. You might say she has…conviction! If that shockingly unclever play on words already has your eyes rolling, then you’d best avoid this lumpy, based-on-a-true-story slab of uplift. For those of us with a love of actorly indulgence, though, the film is a treasure trove, filled with enough molten-gold performances to gild a thousand Oscars.
Her Swankness is in full frump finery, eschewing makeup and leaning heavily on a white-trash drawl that slowly vanishes as he character becomes more refined during an 18-years-long quest through the legal-system labyrinth. She also never ages — determined, saintly heroines are beneficiaries of eternal youth, apparently — which is more than can be said for Rockwell and his accentuated crow’s-feet. He vacillates between De Niro–esque swagger and bizarrely bug-eyed hysteria that seems inspired by William Hurt’s deranged mobster in A History of Violence (Rockwell even hilariously appropriates the latter’s leprechaun goatee). It’s a performance composed entirely of hand-me-downs. Best (worst?) in show, though, goes to Juliette Lewis, for her two scenes as a hostile hick witness. You’ve never seen a prosthetic mouthpiece so abused.—Keith Uhlich