This is by far one of the most interesting films of 2008. If it’s not you’re favorite, at least admit it has its own place in the big picture. A beautifully directed, excellent acted independent feature.
Really now, what a tough character to play. Kym is a volcano and a character filled with emotions, desires, regrets, craziness, love, bitchiness, you name it. She’s an ex drug addict, for most of the film she looks rather bad, she’s a mean girl hunting for attention. And she also has Rachel, the sister, who seems like a saint next to her. Kym is a complicated character not just for Anne to play, but also for the viewer. And I’ll get on that right now.
I said about this film that it has scenes that are deliberately uncomfortable: the dinner rehearsal scene is the most obvious. I don’t know if I should give credit to the writer or to the director; there are moments in the film where I felt that the director got control over the story and by using images not explainable in the screenplay was able to create mood and to influence the entire storyline. And Anne has this advantage of a great director.
Kym is not likeable, at least not at first. We all know her: she’s the no-good kid/person that annoys a more conservative dude like I am. Anne is good with her flaws: she knows when to fake it a bit and when to lie. Anne understands Kym, so the selfishness of the character comes almost naturally. Kym is no monster; but she’s built onscreen so that she embarrasses you as a viewer, she makes you uncomfortable and you feel ashamed for her (at least that’s how I felt).
Yet, it’s Anne Hathaway’s challenge to humanize Kym and to try to change our perspective just as we start to gather more information. Anne’s take on Kym’s demons, on her complicated emotional agenda, is done almost effortless and not all at once. She knows when to hold back and not disadvantage the screenplay by stealing a scene or changing the focus. In a very talkative role, Anne knows exactly how to balance the big words with the big facial expressions or tears.
The sharing of the secret from the middle of the film is a big shift for the character. From then on, slowly, I started changing my feelings towards her. Anne lets us take a look at the softer side of Kym. The burden that she’s carrying is so huge and I don’t really remember the last time I saw such a good portrayal of guilt. Kym knows she’ll never forgive herself for the past and so she’s aware of her emotional damage that won’t go away. However, it’s her new purpose to live with the guilt and try to pick up the pieces. Her line Who do I have to be now? in that confrontation scene with her father and sister is impeccably delivered and so heartbreaking that you get the exact idea of what she’s talking about.
Her helplessness doesn’t really change during the film; but what does disappear is the selfishness in her cry for help. It goes from more of a demand for attention to a real, visible identity crisis.
It’s in my instinct to write more about Kym than Anne. This is probably a proof of the great skills that Anne used in portraying this troubled girl. It was like Anne the actress gave up on her own vanity to create a different type of vanity that Kym has, especially in the first part. It’s a dark role and it’s a brave decision to risk on it. In the end, there were probably 2 deal-breakers for me regarding this performance (except that who do I have to be now mentioned before).
The first one: when they’re all dancing with those Brazilians in the tent, there’s like a 30 seconds shot that starts with Kym dancing and moving her arms and apparently having fun. Then, after a couple of seconds she slows down, and even her face expression changes a bit. And you realize how much she is trying to let loose, how much she it trying to look like she’s having fun and she’s fitting in with everybody. That self-conscious moment that Kym has tells us much more than words would. (No sense mentioning it’s all to Anne’s credit).
The second one: that sad, heartbreaking Dad she whispers through the window before she leaves. So natural and attention grabbing. Yes, Anne really knew how to read those lines and get through what is an imperfect screenplay, but which manages to do justice to her character. I did feel sorry for Kym in the end; even if I don’t really like her, emotions still stay with me after the film is over. Though confused about my rating, I decided to go with . Anne knew what she was doing and drastically contributed to a film that excels in real emotions.