Thursday, May 15, 2014

“Lullaby”– Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we had a screening of the drama “Lullaby”, written and directed by Andrew Levitas.


When a family re-unites for the pending death of their patriarch, they are forced to confront issues that have caused a schism – but can they resolve their differences before the father passes away?


After several years, Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund) is returning home to New York City to see his family – but the reunion won’t be a pleasant one. His father Robert (Richard Jenkins), who has been battling cancer for over a dozen years now, is hospitalized and is preparing for the end. To make matters worse, Jonathan’s sister Karen (Jessica Brown Findlay), a legal student, has been at odds with him for quite some time. Upon Jonathan’s arrival, the two siblings immediately start sparring, but the tension between them only increases when Robert reveals his plans to have his doctor (Terrence Howard) oversee his assisted suicide in the next couple of days.

Complicating the situation is Robert’s revelation that neither of his children will be getting an inheritance once he’s gone; the money they were expecting has been either given away or spent. Instead, Robert will be leaving the house, his life insurance and some of his savings to his wife (Anne Archer). Robert’s reason for doing this is because as much as he loves both of them, he believes his offspring are spoiled. Jonathan went to California in order to pursue a career as a musician; he’s been particularly dependent on money from Robert because he’s since become a substance abuser.

These new wrinkles have greatly exacerbated long-standing disagreements between Jonathan and Robert as well as between Jonathan and Karen. Jonathan has long felt Robert’s emotional support with respect to his career and lifestyle choices has long been absent. Likewise, he feels that Karen has spent the past few years buttering up Robert to make Jonathan look bad in his eyes. With the impending time coming for Robert to be disconnected from his life support system, will Jonathan be able to finally find it in his heart to forgive his father and resolve outstanding issues with him?


If you draft a screenplay where every possible dramatic narrative contrivance is strung together scene after scene, then you’ll probably have a reasonably good idea what “Lullaby” is like. When you consider that this is writer/director Levitas’ first effort in either of these roles, then it’s understandable; were he a more seasoned filmmaker, it might border on unforgiveable. But should an audience keep this in mind when watching the movie? Furthermore, should it in any way have an impact on an audience’s reaction to it as well? I would respond no to both questions. If you’re watching a movie based on a book, you shouldn’t have had to read the source material in order to be able to appreciate or understand the film. Likewise, you shouldn’t have to take into consideration a filmmaker’s level of experience in order to appreciate their work.

Levitas’ primary background is as an artist and photographer; as such, he has a naturally good eye for composition when framing shots. Particularly clever was the way he was able to visually depict Robert’s passing near the end of the movie; he gradually reduced the number of people in his hospital room until it was completely empty with the room cleaned and bed made. Also, “Lullaby” began with a rather compelling first shot that could initially leave the viewer a bit disoriented until realizing exactly what you’re seeing. By contrast, however, he made slightly too much use of mounting a camera on one of his actors to accentuate the feeling of a chaotic situation early on in the motion picture.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed Levitas. He said that “Lullaby” was shot in only 21 days under a budget of merely $3 million. Amy Adams has a small role in the movie as Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend; Levitas said that although the film was mostly shot in chronological order, Adams’ scenes were the exception. Due to the fact that she had a particularly hectic schedule which limited her availability, her few scenes had to be shot in a three day period. Surprisingly, Levitas said that there was nothing he would have done differently if he’d been supplied a bigger budget; he was satisfied with what was done in the time he was allotted to complete the shoot.


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