WILDLIFE

WILDLIFE SHOWS A FAM­ILY IN CRI­SIS, BEAU­TI­FULLY,

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - CONTENTS - SAYS LIND­SEY BAHR

It’s fall of 1960 in Mon­tana when we meet the Brin­son fam­ily in ”Wildlife ,” a care­fully con­sid­ered and deeply mov­ing adap­ta­tion of a Richard Ford novel about a frac­tur­ing mar­riage and the teenage son wit­ness­ing it all. Things don’t start out bad, or don’t seem to be. Jerry Brin­son (Jake Gyl­len­haal) is a well-pressed and af­fa­ble golf pro work­ing at a lo­cal coun­try club, shin­ing shoes and chat­ting up the mem­bers, while his wife Jeanette Brin­son (Carey Mul­li­gan) tends to their rented home and 14-year-old son (Ed Ox­en­bould) with a smile and a sunny at­ti­tude. But the shine of the post-war 50s is start­ing wear off and the ve­neer of hap­pi­ness is be­gin­ning to crack, irst slowly and then ir­repara­bly.

The first crack comes when Jerry loses his job at the club for dar­ing to be overly friendly with the mem­bers, and think­ing that he’s their equal and not their help. When he’s of­fered a chance to come back, he lets his pride con­sume him in­stead. Jeanette, re­al­iz­ing that their ten­u­ous sit­u­a­tion might be­come even more dire, inds a job on her own, al­though she doesn’t let her down in the dumps hus­band see that it was any­thing more than a lucky, easy ind. Their re­la­tion­ship, at irst, seems to be one of equals, two peo­ple who like each, their son and their mod­est lower-ish mid­dle class life that they still be­lieve has the po­ten­tial to im­prove. But then Jerry starts to lose that am­bi­tion, that be­lief that tuck­ing in your shirt and smil­ing and press­ing your slacks and hav­ing your wife stay home (de­spite her in­tel­li­gence) and son play foot­ball (de­spite his dis­like of the sport) will help you im­prove your lot in life. So he leaves, tak­ing a dan­ger­ous, low-wage job ight­ing wildires un­til the snow comes. Jeanette, who has thus far not al­lowed Jerry’s child­ish be­hav­iour to sour her own out­look and pos­i­tiv­ity, starts to regress too (dress­ing as she did in high school, trad­ing her muted hues for bright colours and pur­ple eye­shadow) as she des­per­ately tries to fig­ure out what she’s sup­posed to do. She set­tles on go­ing af­ter a wealth­ier and older man, War­ren Miller (Bill Camp) who owns a nice car deal­er­ship and whose wife left him and who seems to be a ticket out and into a nicer home. Joe is wit­ness to all of this tur­moil, to his mother ac­tu­ally be­ing hon­est about her de­sires, her dis­ap­point­ments and her trans­gres­sions. It’s that rare adult drama that’ll have you feel­ing like a kid again, while also feel­ing the pain of the adults.

“Wildlife” is com­posed with such el­e­gance and em­pa­thy that it ac­tu­ally feels like a novel with its keen sense of time and place and char­ac­ters as rich as the Mon­tana land­scape, which is hard to com­pete with. There are shots that are so beau­ti­ful, you want them to last for­ever. The achieve­ment is made all the more ex­tra­or­di­nary when you con­sider the fact that it is from a irst time direc­tor, in ac­tor Paul Dano, who wrote the adap­ta­tion with his real life part­ner, ac­tress and writer Zoe Kazan. To­gether these two old souls have (with Ford) stu­diously cap­tured the par­tic­u­lar lone­li­ness of that time, and the anx­i­ety of not liv­ing up to the post-war pros­per­ity of ev­ery­one else.

“Wildlife” gives par­tic­u­lar care to the char­ac­ter of Jeanette and I’d be hard­pressed to name a bet­ter per­for­mance from Mul­li­gan, who is pow­er­ful and vul­ner­a­ble and can walk right up to that line of fe­male rage with­out slip­ping into car­i­ca­ture or stereo­type. Of course it helps that she has strong coun­ter­parts to play off of, in Ox­en­bould, and Gyl­len­haal who is eerily good at playing the tox­i­cally in­se­cure man.

It’s one worth mak­ing the trip to the theatre for. “Wildlife” isn’t just a great irst ilm, it’s a great ilm.

Carey Mul­li­gan, (left), and Jake Gyl­len­haal

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