Friday, 15 October 2010

Conviction *** - London Film Festival Review

For Blogomatic3000

Stars: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell,
Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis
Director: Tony Goldwyn

Wow, Hollywood galore. When you think of films from this place you imagine big stars, a thrilling storyline, a cathartic ending and an emotive tale. This has it all and more; it's packed with cliché after cliché which at points becomes almost humorous. We're taken through ups and down that throw emotions at you left, right and centre. But strangely enough, this is actually quite an enjoyable film. You just need to let yourself give into the conventions of Conviction.

All the characters in this film are based on real people, because this is a film about a real case that started in 1983. Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) and Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) are the closest a brother and sister can be through their childhood of deviant behaviour to when they have children and get married. After the arrest of Kenny for the accusation of murdering a young woman, the dynamics of their relationship don't get hindered, but gain much more value as Betty Anne does anything to prove her brother is innocent. The story tells of how she puts herself through law school, whilst being a mother and working I might add, to represent her older brother in court right until the very end.

It's entertaining in terms of the emotion that's central to this drama. The highs and lows are placed in a perfect amount which keeps you wondering what's going to be the next action in their life. And the flow of the story is steady throughout the film which makes it an easy watch. There are just a few things that hold you back from completely falling in love with this representation of a true story.

The exaggeration of love means that after a while the affection becomes funny. You start noticing that this film really pushes family connections and the bond this brother and sister have for each other. When you watch it, not only are you trying to follow the story of a courageous woman, but you're also picking out the single lines which just become a bit ridiculous. It's just a typical example of how a Hollywood film spells things out to the audience. Obviously, from the storyline alone you gain a sense of companionship between the two, but to have every single scene thrown in your face with love and affection means you're kind of distanced. You start noticing the narration and realise it's not actually that great...

Another thing which isn't necessarily bad is that the supporting actors often shine over Swank and Rockwell. There's no doubt about it that these two really put a lot of effort in their roles to gain as much reality out of the true life characters as possible. But when we look at Minnie Driver (Abra Rice) and Juliette Lewis (Roseanna Perry) in particular, they're much more natural and likeable. Maybe because they're added features to the story to give a little bit of humour and the everyday character, but I found I enjoyed watching their roles as it was an escape from the quite dramatic tale being told from the rest of the film.

Going back to Rockwell and Swank, their acting is very... in character. I know that seems a ridiculous statement, but they adopted these roles with a real sense of passion. They both spent a lot of time with the real family and picked up on traits to create this emotive performance. The chemistry between the two is exceedingly good too. It's just a shame that the script was so dyer to work with.

That being said, I did find myself wondering whether there would be a huge twist - Whether he had killed the girl, whether she was going to actually finish Law School etc. So, the story keeps you engaged throughout and has a very satisfying ending which is obvious for a mainstream film. This makes it a perfect watch on DVD, but not so much on the big screen. It's all very typical and by the end predictable. And the fact that there weren't that many turns in the narrative almost made it less satisfying for me. You just want something with a little more of a kick, but all in all it's a pretty standard watch that's pleasurable enough.

How could you accuse this man of a murder?

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