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Will Smith continues to try to explore life past the Fresh Prince persona and finds himself starting to tap back into that well that made The Pursuit of Happiness perhaps one of his best films.
Trigger Warning(s): Conversations about Death of a Child
Review (with Spoilers)
Howard (Will Smith) | Whit (Edward Norton) | Claire (Kate Winslet) | Simon (Michael Pena) | Amy (Keira Knightley) | Raffi (Jacob Latimore) | Brigitte (Helen Mirren)
Losing a child, be it physically or the chance to have one, is devastating. This little person, you don’t get to watch them grow up in the image of you and the one you used to love the most. You don’t get to see some of your personality slip into another being. Like fingerprints on hardened clay. Death takes that from you, time makes your suffering seem like it could last forever, and love is replaced by their evil twin hate.
That is the shared story of Howard, Whit, Claire and Simon. Each trying to deal with a different aspect of a child which doesn’t exist, they wish existed, or wished they were closer to. Something which three people, Brigitte, Amy, and Raffi try to assist in by being the voice each character needs to hear.
Smith Continues to Grow
I can’t remember who said it, though I feel it was someone on Shadow and Act, but Will Smith is coming to a new stage of his career which is refreshing. Now, some may disagree, they may miss Mr. $100 million at the box office but there has to be more to acting than making money. Will Smith, if you hear the stories about his house and life, he has more than enough money. He proved, hell his family has proved, you can be Black, likable, touch any genre of music and movies, and have some form of success.
So what now? Well, there was one review which actually praised Smith’s real big flop in After Earth and I think that person predicted the future of Will Smith. He is no longer content with films which are easy. He wants something hard, which pushes him to feel, and actually put more work into the production than knowing his lines, showing up on time, and marketing the film. In After Earth, he had to learn to tone down his charisma and be still. He had to learn how to rely on another actor, unfortunately, his own son, and not necessarily be the star.
In many ways, since then, we have seen him grow or at least try to. Arguably, Suicide Squad was about him learning to be one of many. Not being the person who got the final hit or the sole star. Concussion was about being in a movie which dealt with controversy, trying to perform with an accent, and honestly, he is living up to the idea that sometimes you have to fail to get better. However, in this film, it seems we may finally be seeing he is learning something about dramatic acting. We saw a glimpse of it in Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness, but the onion which is the abilities of smith gets peeled back another layer as we watch him be a depressed man. Not depressed like in Hancock where there is some wit or sarcasm, but from After Earth you see him tapping into a person who is controlled and drained. Someone who lost a life and doesn’t know the point of going on past that. In many ways, it is like Smith has graduated from one level and this is his start into the next.
Let’s Kick Howard While He Is Down
Good thing: This isn’t some remixed version of The Christmas Carol. Bad Thing: It deals with a group of friends trying to sell their company because their boss has become unproductive and the company’s value is dropping fast. So, as a group, they decide to set him up to look crazy so his signature won’t be needed on the final documents for when they sell.
On The Fence
Many Good Stories, Too Many In One Movie
I am a firm believer that unless the actors are Viola Davis level and/or the story are superbly written, splitting the focus within a drama is a mistake. Reason being, you lose all the development and time needed to craft a fully dimensional person. Leaving the audience with something as real as a microwave dinner. Yeah, it maybe sustenance, but all the flavor and taste just isn’t there because time was limited so the real deal just wasn’t an option.
To go further, each person, not even bringing Howard into the equation, has a movie plot within itself. Claire is at the age where having a child is difficult, Simon is no longer in remission and, for the 3rd time in his life, cancer has returned. Oh, and may I add, it is within weeks or months after his child is born? Then with Whit, he ruined his marriage and the collateral damage of that is the hatred of his adolescent daughter who doesn’t want to speak to him or spend quality time with him.
Each of those stories aren’t given justice and it is so frustrating because you almost feel cheated because of it.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
While Smith continues to progress by taking on roles that perhaps challenge him, unfortunately, while the role maybe good for him he keeps picking movies which are not. Like Suicide Squad, this film seems diluted by the amount of talent whose lives are made too big to just be supporting roles and thus too small to be ultimately satisfying. Yet, I will admit, you may get emotional and won’t walk away thinking you wasted your money. However, you may very well feel that given a taste of everything may have left you full but not at all satisfied.