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"Brothers," directed by Jim Sheridan ("Get Rich or Die Tryin'") and starring Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal,, is the story of a family who believes their Marine son (Maguire) is killed in combat and must learn to move on with their lives.
Gyllenhaal enters the picture as the ex-con brother who slowly turns into "the good guy" as he realizes > > his brother's family needs a father figure.
All the while, Maguire's character is a POW in Afghanistan. In a sense, Maguire plays two characters in this film, the family-oriented Marine before being held in Afghanistan, and the damaged, paranoid Marine post-war. With Maguire's initial character, there is little chemistry between him, Portman (his on-screen wife) and the children. Maguire looks too young and frail to be such a tough Marine and there is no palpable love between him and Portman's character.
When Maguire returns from war is when he really shines. As a hardened Marine suffering from what is likely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or some form thereof), he plays a disturbed, violent, guilt-ridden, mistrusting brother and husband to a tee. Even his eyes show signs of hatred and distrust. This "second" character is likely what led to the Golden Globe nomination. Portman shines througout the movie and you can feel her sorrow at the loss of her husband. Portman is the one who makes the husband-wife relationship believable.
She sheds quite a few tears during the film, but it's not overload. It's the perfect form of despair, staying strong enough to take care of her two daughters. Gyllenhaal, playing Maguire's brother, is an excellent bad-boy-turned-good. He has extremely strong chemistry with both Portman and the children. So much so that you might believe he would make a
better husband and father.
His smiles seem genuine and his caring for the family comes across as truthful through the screen. Even his bad-boy image is well played in the beginning, with outbursts of rage at just the appropriate time. Another actor not to be left out is Bailee Madison, the eldest daughter. At just over 10 years old, Madison evokes emotions that would remind anyone of their own childhood. Her anger and sadness are spot on.Let's hope for a bright future for Bailee (as she already has three projects in 2010).
The film itself is ill-paced, with some scenes dragging on too long, and some scenes passing too quickly. In one instant, several months have passed with Maguire as a POW, but aside from stating the date, we're given no other indication that any time has passed by. Unfortunately this mis-timing makes for a choppy picture that doesn't flow from beginning to end, nor allow for the Maguire-Portman relationship to feel developed.
Though all three main characters give good performances, the storyline needed to be more fleshed out in order to really feel Maguire's love before he leaves for war and pain upon his return.
6 1/2 sandwiches out of 10.
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