During the Oscar season I heard something about Jacki Weaver’s previous award nomination worthy performance and decided to add Animal Kingdom to my ever-growing list. Then the other day I sat down to watch this Australian, for the lack of a better description, artsy-indie-crime movie. It’s definitely not a fast crime thriller I was sort of expecting, but it is definitely interesting in its core just enough to keep things fresh. Though Animal Kingdom made it to Tarantino’s top 3 of 2010, I was not as enthusiastic about it but then again, I’ve bee having one of those weeks where everything is so average. So I blame me, not the movie.
Animal Kingdom starts with a tone that will be the major player throughout the movie, the kind that is best described by lack of emotions – Joshua (James Frencheville) is sitting on the couch besides his overdosed mother watching TV. Now, that was certainly intriguing and weird at the same time but I can’t help to think back that Frencheville’s performance was making Joshua more empty than he was supposed to be. Then again, it was his first major role and not all can be as dynamic while lacking emotion. For Animal Kingdom the power behind the leading role was not all what was missing for me, at times I felt that some of the character introductions were messy. Especially Joshua’s girlfriend, who just appeared, and since she became a big part of the story, I felt a bit neglected by the end because the movie didn’t create a certain emotional connection with her.
Then again, all characters except Jacki Weaver’s Janine (grandmother to Joshua), happened to be lacking the connection. Even Guy Pearce didn’t interest me as much as I thought he would. So it makes me wonder if that was the point. Animal Kingdom was supposed to feel unconnected and neglecting emotion because that is life sometimes. I don’t know, even taking into account that idea I still wanted more and similar performances to Weaver’s emotional grandmother. Be the movie’s tone “lack of emotion” or not, I need power behind eyes and sadly, Joshua didn’t have it until the very end. The last scene was actually my favorite of the movie, that, and the first one, so at least Animal Kingdom was nicely tied in together by the very end.
The story of Animal Kingdom was at times as messy as the characters, Joshua’s uncles were caught in some shady business and one of them got killed. Then others decided to revenge his death, Joshua in the middle of things became the key witness to the case around Pope (Ben Mandelsohn). Pope actually was the only uncle that had a villain-like presence but maybe it was because he was shown to do most of the bad things that happened in Animal Kingdom. Things that piled up before the end, right before the plot got very interesting: then suddenly it kind of cooled down, which I appreciated because the very end felt more shocking because of it.
My lack of thoughts about this movie is a great way to explain my lack of enthusiasm, whilst the movie had a good premise it didn’t really pick up the speed for me. I think my mood is to blame, I feel exhausted by everything these days and this movie was no different. While I craved for thrills, the excitement was lost in its indie core which is totally fine but it wasn’t something I needed. Still, Animal Kingdom has that something and that is Weaver, who seems to be great in motherly roles. In this, her role was bigger than in Silver Linings Playbook as well as more dark. All in all, a decent film but that’s where I draw the line because I was expecting more.