The Woodsman (2004)
|New Market Films || R - 87 minutes || December 24, 2004|
|Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2005-01-15|
Writer(s): Steven Fechter (novel), Nicole Kassell and Steven Fechter (screenplay)
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def, Benjamin Bratt, David Alan Grier, Eve
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The Woodsman marks the first feature length film for writer/director Nicole Kassell, and I must say that it is a very impressive debut. Kevin Bacon stars as Walter, a convicted child molester who has been released from prison after 12 years and is trying to start a new life. The plot is simple, but the way it unfolds is very complex. Bacon's performance is as always, great. It is a shame that he won't get as much awards attention as he deserves. But then again, this year is one of the most competitive races in years for Best Actor. In any other year, more people would have already heard about his performance. Bacon never goes over the top or too emotional. All the emotions of Walter seem to be internalized and subtle. There are several scenes in the film (mostly between his character and Vickie, played by Bacon's real life wife Kyra Sedgwick) where another actor could have gone over the top, or done too much, but Bacon keeps it more simple and is therefore more effective.
Throughout the film, Walter must deal with the demons of his past, while at the same time trying to start a new life. Director Nicole Kassell does a great job of showing these internalized problems within Walter. We see some flashes of Walter's past as he looks from the window of his apartment, which happens to be across the road from an elementary school. When asked by one character in the film why he chose to live so close to kids that age, Walter just says that it was the cheapest place he could find. As an audience, we know that Walter is trying hard to forget his past, but at the same time, he still feels that temptation he once had. We also see this in many of Walter's sessions with a psychiatrist.
The rest of the supporting cast also give very good performances. Sedgwick does a very good job as Walter's only friend in the film, who we later find out, has many problems of her own. Mos Def turns in a solid performance as Sgt. Lucas as well. I've seen Mos Def in a few films now and his performance seems to improve with every film. Benjamin Bratt, Eve and David Alan Grier also give solid performances in their small roles. I also must mention young actress Hannah Pilkes, who also gives a great performance. Her scenes with Bacon (especially the scene on the bench), are among the best of the film.
Overall, it is definitely one of the best psychological dramas you will see all year. The Woodsman is a complex, dark and very internalized film that takes you inside the mind of a convicted sex offender. The script is weak in some areas (the relationship between Bratt's character Carlos and Walter should have been developed more), but Kassell does make that up with good directing and solid editing from Lisa Fruchtman and Brian Kates. Keep an eye out for director Nicole Kassell in the future. She definitely will make name for herself in the coming years. In a year where Zach Braff's directorial debut in Garden State (which is a very average film to say the least) seems to be getting all this attention, it is a shame that Kassell isn't getting the same recognition for her debut in a film that is much better.
That being said, the main reason to go see the film is to watch Bacon's performance unfold throughout the film. To me, this is probably the performance of his career. Bacon is a Hollywood veteran, yet he never seems to get the attention he deserves. I thought he was great in last years Mystic River, but he seemed to be overshadowed by Tim Robbins and Sean Penn's performances. Bacon usually is great at showing emotions without saying words and his performance in The Woodsman is the finest example of that.