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The Woodsman DVD Review

The Woodsman

October 14, 2005

Director: Nicole Kassell,
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Eve, Mos Def, David Alan Grier, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Shannon, Carlos Leon, Kevin Rice, ,

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DVD Review

Kevin Bacon has had an interesting career to the say the least. In the ‘80s, he was being groomed as a leading man with Footloose (1984) but ended up rejecting these kinds of films in favour of memorable supporting roles in the ‘90s with the likes of JFK (1991). In recent years, Bacon has gone back and forth from high profile gigs like Mystic River (2003) to meatier roles in independent films like The Woodsman (2004).

Walter (Bacon) is a convicted sex offender released from prison after 12 years. He gets an apartment located across from a grade school in Philadelphia and a simple job at a lumberyard. He keeps mostly to himself but is gradually drawn to a tough, no-nonsense co-worker named Vickie (Sedgwick). Because of the nature of his crime (involving children) Walter is in a semi-sort of self-imposed exile. His sister doesn’t speak to him and he is only able to communicate with her through the husband (Bratt).

Every day he is confronted by the very thing that he needs to stay away from: little kids playing across the street from his apartment and young, teenage girls brushing past him on the bus ride home. Walter is faced with a dilemma when he sees a man talking to the young kids from the nearby school. He finds out that a little girl was attacked not far away. Walter is no dummy and can see the signs of a fellow child molester but should he try to stop this guy and risk being blamed instead?

Kevin Bacon delivers a sensitive, intensely internalized performance. When we see him looking at the school grounds it doesn’t take much to figure out what he’s thinking about. The veteran actor does an excellent job of showing Walter’s internal struggle as he tries to suppress the old urges and temptations. Walter is sick and he knows it. He asks his psychiatrist, “When will I be normal?” This could so easily be his mantra throughout the movie. All he wants is to lead a normal life and finally defeat his inner demons.

There is a nice bit of casting real life couple, Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick as lovers in the movie. Their real-life relationship gives the scenes between them an authentic level of intimacy. It becomes clear that Walter and Vickie are two damaged people who find solace with each other.

The characters are well-drawn, fully realized with smart dialogue and a deft touch at how the film’s sensitive subject matter is depicted. Director Nicole Kassell gives it the proper amount of respect and seriousness that it deserves. There is never a false moment or feeling of mindless sensationalism. The film does a good job of getting inside Walter’s head, showing us the world through his eyes and yet it gives insights into both sides: the perpetrator and the victim. It shows how both sides feel and the effects of physical abuse on them. The Woodsman doesn’t try to judge Walter; leaving that up to the audience, but it does try to understand him and his sickness. Bacon is more than up for this challenging role with a strong performance in this powerful, yet understated movie.

Special Features:

There is a theatrical trailer.

“Getting it Made” is not exactly a Making Of featurette but rather an interview with the film’s producer, Lee Daniels. He candidly reveals his aversion to the screenplay at first but after meeting with Kassell he agreed to make the movie. Daniels also talks about how he got Bacon on-board and the struggle to get financing because of the tough subject matter.

Also included are three deleted scenes, including one where Vickie proposes that she and Walter live together. Another one tries to define the attraction of little girls for Walter. There is some good footage here that shouldn’t have been cut.

Finally, there is an audio commentary by director Nicole Kassell. She mentions that the opening credits are an homage to the ones in Sam Peckinpah’s movie, The Getaway (1972). Once Bacon committed to the role, the rest of the cast fell into place. This is a very knowledgeable and informative track as Kassell clearly did her homework and it shows in every frame of this movie.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 88%

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