Reviewed bysimonfainshteinVote: 9/10/10
Stronger is a brilliant film with strong performances by JakeGyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, and especially Miranda Richardson. DavidGordon Green's choice to use practical lighting and creating a settingthat seems real results in an extremely sincere film. John Pollonowrites a script that held true to Jeff Blauman's story by focusing moreon his struggles and keeping the Boston Marathon tragedy in thebackground. Also boobs.
Reviewed byjadepietroVote: 9/10/10
(RATING: ☆☆☆☆½ out of 5 )
THIS FILM IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: A gritty and emotional film that couldn't ask for a strongerperformance than the one given by Jake Gyllenhaal.
SYNOPSIS: A biography of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the Boston Marathonbombing.
JIM'S REVIEW: The odds against Jeff Bauman surviving the horror of the2013 Boston Marathon bombing were slim and the chances any moviegoerwon't be moved to tears and uplifted by this one man's personal tale ofsurvival while experiencing David Gordon Green's Stronger are evenless.
This heartfelt film takes on the before and after view of this commonman. First seen as a hometown boy (before being cast as an hometownhero to the world), Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal) was a fun-loving avid BostonRed Sox fan caught in an on-again / off again relationship with hisgirlfriend, Erin (Tatianna Maslany). He lived an ordinary life, onefilled with bars, beer, and blue collar stock characters. Then came theterrorist bombing which changed everything.
The story itself is predictable and manipulative, yet emotionallygripping. John Pollono's screenplay follows the formula to the T, orshould I say from Point A (the horrific event) to Point B (overcomingthe obstacles and hardships) to its uplifting Point C ending (pride andredemption). That said, it all works most effectively, due its honestdepiction of a man in crisis.
And having that person played by the talented Mr. Gyllenhaal, a finemethod actor who immersed himself in this real life role, gives thefilm the honest integrity and authenticity the film needs which helpsto separate the movie from most biographies that wallow in self-pityand inner strength. Watching him struggle to come to terms with hisinjuries and finally walk with two prosthetic legs is gut-wrenching andMr. Gyllenhaal shows his character's human flaws and intrinsic hopeswith the least amount of melodramatic excess. His performance deservesaward recognition.
Where the film truly succeeds is in avoiding the clichés of mostbiopics by making our hero too heroic and unreal. Mr. Gordon'sdirection is concise and insightful. He never allows Stronger toweaken. His film doesn't flinch from the ugly side of Jeff'srehabilitation, his dysfunctional family, and his sacrifices just tolead a normal life. It wisely covers the issue of instant fame andbecoming a pawn for network news, a necessary symbol of courage for anation, even if our hero wants none of that adoration. The film doesend on an inspirational false note, as most film biopics do, in a sceneat the ballpark that takes a misstep into gross sentimentality and anunabashed shout-out to patriotism. But the story always remainscompelling and the acting is superb.
The rest of the cast could easily have played their parts ratherroutinely and still bring about the emotional clout: sufferinggirlfriend, loyal friends, worrisome parents, etc. But the actors shyaway from the obvious and give their characters some gravitas. Ms.Maslany makes a fine partner as Jeff's supporting girlfriend, showingthe pain and frustration beautifully. Carlos Sanz as the man who savedJeff's life during the bombing, has a quiet and touching scene that isso nuanced and heartbreaking in its subtlety. It shows the collectivedespair of survivors and their kin. Miranda Richardson, as Jeff's boozymother, is so memorable in her supporting role that she becomesunrecognizable, creating an indelible character while exposing herhuman flaws. Her rivalry with Erin brings needed tension to the familydynamics which separates this film from the run-of-the-millinspirational saga. There are many scenes of undeniable pathos andmelancholy, insightful moments in time, especially the parking lotconfrontation between the two leads that builds to an emotional zenith.
Stronger is a rarity, a powerful film based on a true life story thatis true to life. With a strong central performance, fine direction, anda screenplay that works on many emotional levels, this is one of theyear's most satisfying dramas. Do not miss it!
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Reviewed byDavid Ferguson (firstname.lastname@example.org)Vote: 7/10/10
Greetings again from the darkness. There is a fine line between gettingchewed out by your Costco supervisor one day and having the countryclaim you as a hero the next. Just ask Jeff Bauman. On April 15, 2013Jeff was near the finish line for the Boston Marathon, holding ahandmade sign in support of his runner-girlfriend Erin. When she wasstill about a mile away, the two bombs went off, killing three peopleand injuring hundreds. Mr. Bauman lost his legs that day.
When Jeff regained consciousness in the hospital (after two surgeries),he was able to provide the FBI a detailed physical description of oneof the bombers. His information led directly to the identification ofone of the scumbag brothers responsible for this atrocity. Immediately,Jeff was hailed as a hero both locally and nationally. The film doesa nice job of telling Jeff's story and how his life unfolded over thenext few months.
Director David Gordon Green is responsible for such disparate filmprojects as OUR BRAND IS CRISIS, MANGLEHORN, and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Hemay seem an odd choice to adapt the film from the book by Jeff Baumanand Bret Witter (screenplay by John Pollono), but the story is somoving and heart-warming, and the three lead actors are so good that weimmediately connect with each of them.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff, Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black") playsErin, and Miranda Richardson tears up the screen as Jeff's mother,Patty. Mr. Gyllenhaal is remarkable (as usual) as the working classlocal boy who truly believes his lucky seat and beer determine successor failure for his beloved Bruins and Red Sox. His initial portrayal isspot on for the normal guy who seems caught in the web of eternalteenage mentality so common in the male species. As he struggles withhis new life challenges, he strives to do better, but simply doesn'tunderstand why he is viewed as a hero and doesn't particularlyembrace what comes with the label, at least early on. Ms. Maslany isterrific as the guilt-ridden, confused-yet-strong, on-again-off- againgirlfriend to Jeff. She fights through being treated as an outsider bythe family, and the daily grind of caring for a guy who needs constanthelp. The twice Oscar nominated Miranda Richardson is unlike we haveever seen her on screen. Despite being a Brit, Ms. Richardson capturesthe Boston sauciness (in more ways than one) and takes no 'stuff' fromanyone. Her performance is stunning.
Of course, at its core, this is an inspirational story about how anormal guy became a hero after a tragic event. The recent Mark Wahlbergfilm PATRIOTS DAY focused on the aftermath and investigation, whilehere the attention is on the emotional story of one man and one family.We see the recreation of the flag-waving at the Boston Bruins game, andthe ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park. We also see the obstaclesfaced when rehabilitation and care- giving becomes too much to bear.Carlos Arredondo and his cowboy hat and heroics are also givenmuch-deserved space here. His back story is heart-breaking, and areminder that everyone has a story, and each of us can be a hero insome way. Since life isn't a movie, the realities are that Jeff andErin have since divorced, but that in no way reduces the impact oftheir touching story that inspires each of us to be stronger.
Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.