Very little of your time spent with Short Term 12 — whether it be watching the movie, thinking about it at home, or talking about it with a friend — won't feel like a thousand pound weight on your shoulders. From the get-go, the movie has you, anchoring you down to its sad and beautiful world and demanding that you carry with you all of the incredible thoughts and feelings it has to offer. If you have not had personal experience with any of the film's assortment of stories — stories of child abuse, abandonment, self-mutilation, oppressive depression and aloneness — the depictions will shock you. And if you have, they'll shock you at how true they got it. The best shock of all: the ability to convey these things with such piercing reality and keep you afloat all the while. Short Term 12 doesn't sugarcoat the depths to which these dark avenues can make a young person plunge. But it doesn't leave you without hope, either.
In fact, Short Term 12 ushers you into its special world by allowing you to laugh at and with its characters. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. play a pair of counselors at the titular home for disadvantaged children, actively pursuing beacons of light and love to lift them out of the sorrows of their occupation and personal histories. Larson, as the film's star, gives far and away the most impressive performance of the year as a young woman who can put her all into rescuing her kids from the stormclouds that drown them in sadness and self-loathing but is also stuck beneath her own without so much as an umbrella. With the maturity of her character and her performance, you won't believe that budding star Larson is only 23 years old.
But Larson and Gallagher never rob their adolescent counterparts of the attention they both deserve (even more impressive than Larson playing a woman older than her real age are children so young offering performances so booming) and need to carry forth the vitality of Short Term 12. Although we really only have time to explore the stories of two kids at the home, what we get from each — and from the character of Short Term 12 itself — is enough to leave your heart in pieces. When we see the low lows of 17-year-old Marcus' (Keith Stanfield) and 15-year-old Jayden's (Kaitlyn Dever) battles with depression, anxiety, and parental malfeasance, we are shaken. We are invited into the saddest individual universes (as that is how their realities feel to these children: like all-encompassing, ever-reaching universes) to see the blackest crevices of rock bottom.
But again, Short Term 12 doesn't leave us there to rot. It wants us to see everything the world is capable of in terms of heartbreak but it also wants us to know that this isn't the ultimate, that there are ropes to pull us back up and plateaus to which we might ascend. And these, in testament to the magic worked by filmmaker Destin Cretton and his unparalleled cast, feel just as real as everything else we experience. To make the sad stories work, compel, feel true is a triumph. But to make the beacons of light and love shine as bright as they do and feel just as true notwithstanding — which Short Term 12 does, and so emphatically — that's just shy of miraculous.
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It's hard to imagine, but even after an actor or actress has climbed their way up from lead of their high school's production of Once Upon a Mattress to Oscar-nominated actress on their way to being full-fledged Academy Award winner, that person's parents are still just as proud and overwhelmed with emotion as they were in the beginning. Moms and Dads: they'll always love to gush.
Anne Hathaway is currently earning raves and Oscar buzz for her portrayal of Fantine in the film adaptation of the classic musical Les Misérables. But perhaps more importantly, she's wowing her mother and father. While Hathaway is stern about the fact that the roles she takes are the ones that compel her and her alone, she also can't help but acknowledge how thrilled her mother is with her performance.
"She's really happy. It's really exciting to go through this moment," Hathaway says. "To have my love for the show have originated 23 years ago when I saw my mother do it… she is so connected, both my parents are so connected, to this moment, to me, it's a really happy time for us."
Hathway's mother, Kate McCauley Hathaway, played Fantine in a National Tour of Les Misérables, making the role in the film version even more personal for the actress. Hathaway is protective when it comes to revealing how she digs deep into her characters, but says she learned an important lesson from her mother's own experiences playing the part.
"I loved to hear her stories about it," Hathaway says. "Whenever she would go on as Fantine, she would keep my picture on the mirror ... so whenever she would have to think of Cosette, all of the love she felt for me would make its way into her performance."
To hear more from Anne Hathaway on her parents' reaction to her performance and an inside look on the strenuous single-shot delivery of "I Dreamed a Dream" (which took 20 takes to shoot!), check out our interview with the actress below:
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
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Tyler Perry's most famous character Madea is actually the least obnoxious part of his latest movie Madea's Witness Protection. Given that Madea is Perry in drag as an overweight gray-haired woman who delights in threatening people with violence this is pretty amazing.
The Madea movies aren't supposed to be nuanced character portraits they're Teachable Moments. In this case it's about shady businesses and Ponzi schemes — Bernie Madoff is even referred to by name. Although there's no doubt we're all feeling the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis and will be for some time to come Madoff isn't exactly breaking news any more. Perry also wants to have his cake and eat it too showing the greed and corruption of big companies while also offering at least one of the people at fault both the benefit of the doubt and a shot at redemption. None of it adds up and half of the movie is taken up by a tiresome group of snobs who deserve their comeuppance at the hands of Madea.
The Needlemans are a rich white family whose patriarch is inadvertently involved in a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme. The mob is somehow involved — don't ask — so the Atlanta ADA Brian (also Perry) puts them up at the safest place he knows: his Aunt Madea's house. George played by Eugene Levy's eyebrows is such a schmuck that he had no idea he was being set up to take the fall or that the company he worked for was stealing millions of dollars from charities. Denise Richards plays his typically brittle and much younger housewife Kate whose main interests seem to be yoga ("yoda" in Madea-speak) and carbs. They both let George's daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell) walk all over them and George and Kate's son Howie (Devan Leos) is the subject of many "fat loser"-type jokes. George's mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) is either senile or pretending to be or is just pilled out from all the Valium they give her; she's also a horny old broad that keeps making googly eyes at Joe (Madea's brother Brian's father and of course Tyler Perry in old man drag). Cindy is so awful that it's a relief when Madea lets loose on her even though it's a truly cruel prank that sets the girl straight. They are all totally boring and incredibly annoying so much so that any time Madea or even Joe appears it's a relief.
The other half of the Teachable Moments equation is Jake played by Romeo Miller. Jake was living a life of crime until he got straightened out and then his dad a sickly preacher played by John Amos trusted him with all the money to pay off the church mortgage. Unfortunately he invested it in a company in New York that's no longer answering their phones. Jake tries to hold up Madea for cash after she leaves the grocery store. She gives him a sound talking-to the gist of which is he should get a job and stop trying to rob old ladies who have worked hard all their life. (True!) However he's just trying to raise the money he lost investing in a company in New York the money his sick father gave him to pay off the church mortgage that's now lost. In case you can't follow the dots that would be the company George worked for that lost all the money for his dad's church leading him to a life of robbing little old ladies for pocket change. Besides the tragic waste of Amos Marla Gibbs plays a nosy neighbor for about half a minute.
Perry's writing shows a disturbing amount of cynicism if not downright meanness for a family movie. When Kate and Madea have a heart-to-heart about Cindy Kate confesses that Cindy thinks her dad cheated on her mom with Kate. Kate says "What kind of person do you think I am?" And Madea purrs sotto voice "A woman." There are also plenty of jokes about Madea's previous life as among other things a stripper especially in conjunction with her weight. (She had to use a telephone pole when she danced. Get it? 'Cause she's fat! Hah!) It's unfortunate that the spoof reel that plays after the credits is more entertaining than the movie itself -- even if those jokes include Charlie Sheen grabbing Madea's boobs Madea/Perry pranking room service about the bidet and Eugene Levy making prison rape jokes.
I was one of the few people who were impressed by Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls a well-intentioned attempt to bring the feminist experimental play by Ntozake Shange to life. That didn't compel me to seek out any of his other movies though so Madea's Witness Protection was my first foray into the franchise that's made him a very very rich and powerful man. The weirdness of Perry's vision is well-documented and he has fans across the board. Unfortunately I'm just one of them.