What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this psychological thriller -- which dwells on the possibilities of fate and free will in regards to a predicted death -- is meant for mature viewers. The movie's downer theme is presented in darkly shadowed, bleak compositions, with tension and threats of violence running high throughout the film. Men carry and use guns, and there's some fighting; the last sequence turns very bloody. A couple of brief sex scenes are romantic and hopeful. There's lots of drinking and cigarette smoking, and a central character is a heroin addict. The language is appropriately seedy, with frequent use of "f--k" and more.
What's the story?
Told by a roadside psychic (J.K. Simmons) that he's destined to die soon (at the "first snow"), ambitious New Mexico-based flooring salesman Jimmy Starks (Guy Pearce) goes through a series of reactions: disbelief, anxiety, anger, and, at last, surrender. He knows his friend Vincent (Shea Whigham) is now paroled, but still believes that his friend went to jail because he screwed up during a police interrogation following a botched crime. As much as he tries to control what's happening -- threatening friends, breaking into Vincent's trailer, even conferring with a cop -- Jimmy is lost. At last, worried that Vincent will be the instrument of his death, Jimmy goes to see Vincent's grandmother Maggie (Jackie Burroughs). Jimmy suggests -- in his ferrety, deceptive way -- that he's afraid Vincent is "thinking about doing something stupid," but Maggie is distracted by what's important to her: a relationship with another person. "I wish I'd been awake when [Vincent] left the message that said he loved me," she sighs. It's a desire so delicate and sad that Jimmy can't fathom it.
Is it any good?
While the plot is unsurprising, Pearce's performance opens up its mostly conventional ruminations on fate and free will. As Jimmy succumbs to his fears -- he's a self-absorbed anti-hero, cynical and always angling -- his descent into himself is weirdly gripping. Though Jimmy's plot eventually turns too knotty to believe, his efforts to sort it out are increasingly riveting.
Any movie that finds a place for the remarkable Jackie Burroughs scores a few bonus points out of the gate. As Maggie, an elderly woman living alone -- addled, coughing, and gnarly, she maintains a strange grace, aware of her visitor's selfish intent even as she mourns losing her son to his drug addiction. Her two brief scenes reveal her canny understanding of exactly what went wrong for her son, as well as what's about to go wrong for his childhood friend, Jimmy.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the concept of fate. Would you want to know the future if you couldn't change it? Do you think Jimmy could have avoided his fate? Can you think of other movies or TV shows that have dealt with similar topics? Do you consider this film a psychological thriller? Why? What are the conventions of that subgenre?