It’s a happy birthday to Sam Rockwell, who turns 39 today. While this summer’s Joshua was a stillborn misfire of stilted mood, it at least had the benefit of honest effort, and slightly different modes of expression than most mainstream product. It was a good bit of branching out for Rockwell, too. Long a master of the hair-based performance, Rockwell is sort of where Philip Seymour Hoffman was circa 1997-2000 — in demand with in-the-know directors, and reeling off memorable character work, but still awaiting his Capote. As anyone who’s seen Confessions of a Dangerous Mind will attest, he’s got the talent to break through as a part-time lead (albeit a very screwy one), just like Hoffman. Perhaps his turns in Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon and the upcoming Choke will give Rockwell the extra little bump in mainstream profile that has thus far eluded him, despite having a fan in George Clooney.
I caught Frank Darabont’s The Mist this past week, and while a full review will follow closer to its release, it’s a misfire — too long and mock-cerebral to qualify as a thrill ride for genre audiences, and too riddled with low-grade histrionics and other moments that give one pause to carry the day as a piece of apocalyptic theater-in-the-round.
Infamous‘ Toby Jones, Chris Owen, Alexa Davalos (much more fetching in Feast of Love), Nathan Gamble and Sam Witwer, who has absolutely ridiculous eyebrows. (Seriously, it matters — Witwer is supposed to play a conflicted Army kid, but looks like he stepped out of a Lindsay Lohan movie or Chad Michael Murray impression contest.)
The Mist is supposed to be about the slowly dawning horror of mob rule — how public masks are discarded when the thin veneer of civilization is stripped away. The problem is that you consistently figure things out before characters, some of the dialogue goes clang! and the juxtaposition of other bits is unintentionally hilarious. (In one scene, Jane earnestly reassures his son he’ll be fine despite a planned venture outside, then, still hugging him, turns directly to another adult and says, “If anything happens to me, take care of Billy…”) Additionally, Harden’s crazed prophet — meant to be a mixture of religious proselytizing and flat-out whack-job craziness — never takes root as anything more than irritating, chiefly due to an extremely broad, grating performance. The movie earns points for assaying its premise with a difficult ending, but if/when The Mist under-performs at the box office, it decidedly won’t be because of that choice, though less intelligent box office gurus (and studio executives) may ascribe blame thusly.
For more information on the film, visit its web site by clicking here. A co-production from MGM and Dimension Films, The Mist opens nationwide November 21.