Mini-Reviews: Short Term 12 and Locke

short term 12 locke

It sure seems like I haven’t posted anything except reviews for a while. Oops, here’s two more.

Up today: Short Term 12 and Locke. Get stoked, fools.

Short Term 12 (2013)
Directed by Destin Cretton
Watched on Dec 05

Short Term 12 is a moving, engaging, and pleasantly honest film that is set against the backdrop of life working and/or living in a foster care/at-risk teen living facility.

The main character is twenty-someting Grace, who works at the facility and is played by Brie Larson; and one of the film’s biggest strengths is Larson’s performance. She really shines in this film, and it’s a shame that she was not even more widely recognized for the performance. After watching Short Term 12, I certainly look forward to seeing her in more lead roles. As Grace (who has plenty of demons of her own and didn’t have a particularly great childhood herself), Larson manages to be at once emotionally intense and realistically subtle. As Grace is the foundation on which the entire film is built, Larson’s ability to convey the psychology of a figure as haunted and as complex as Grace is crucial to Short Term 12‘s success.

The film’s other primary strengths are it’s heart and it’s sincerity. Unfortunately, they also lead to a few of it’s hiccups. At times, Short Term 12 is visceral, honest, and appropriately realistic; but at others, it is contrived and a bit too saccharine.

Also, while there are plenty of interesting (and potentially interesting) side characters in the film, Cretton chooses to ignore most of them so that he can focus on the personal drama in Grace’s life. Don’t get me wrong, Grace is an interesting, compelling, and fully-realized character, but while I was watching her story unfold, I could not help but wish that I was being shown more of the stories of those children around her.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Short Term 12 is that it ends on a decidedly too-cheery note. After all the crying and the contemplating, the film tries to force audiences to leave the theater feeling hopeful and convinced that life in the foster care system is actually pretty ok. I take issue with the film’s ending; it feels like it’s pandering a bit to rich white people or something. Idk. It’s just not what I wanted. . . it’s the sort of ending that let’s the audience dust their hands off as they get up from their seats; it’s says, “Everything is ok. There’s nothing more to think about. Nothing to worry about. Go home and have a nice dinner.” It’s a forced and timid ending. I do not care for timid endings.

Despite it’s missteps, Cretton’s Short Term 12 remains a thoroughly watchable film; and at times, it is even profoundly affecting. While I often found myself wishing that the film were more interested in its younger characters and in the realities of the foster system than it is, I suppose I can’t really be mad at it for not being what it isn’t. Once I let go of these frustrations and decided to watch the film on it’s own terms, I did find it (mostly) really quite enjoyable.
Get Short Term 12 on DVD.

Locke (2014) AKA Dori will watch anything if Tom Hardy is in it
Directed by Steven Knight
Watched on Dec 11

On paperLocke is a strange little film. After all, it takes place in real time, really only shows one actor’s face (the very nice face that belongs to Tom Hardy), and takes place entirely in a car. In reality, however, Knight’s attempt to do something different and cool and shit turns out rather ordinary. It’s a damn shame.

While Tom Hardy gives an riveting and fascinating performance, the script he is given to work with simply does not live up to his talents. As the film is ultimately a character study, Hardy’s abilities do go quite a long way; in fact, they go so far as to leave the story so far behind that one cannot help but notice the gap in between. Hardy should be applauded for doing such a good job with such meager script and for getting Locke closer to realizing its ambitions than many other actors would have. Andrew Scott also does a good job in the film, especially considering that his is a voice-over only part.

As I started to say, Locke‘s script simply isn’t good enough. In truth, it only has enough material to sustain a film that’s half it’s length (and at 90ish minutes, the film isn’t that long to begin with). Ivan Locke could be a truly memorable character, but by reducing him to such a small handful of traits, Knight leaves him too flat for the film to really work.

I was also a bit peeved with the film’s score. To my ear, the music felt strangely out of place and damaged the mood of the film. Considering all the self-imposed constraints that Locke operates under, it’s use of non-diegetic music comes across as glaringly superfluous and does more to distract viewers than it does to enhance their cinematic experience.

The film also features a number of shots that felt superfluous and distracting. Most of these were shots from outside Locke’s fancy-ass BMW. . . in a way, these shots (of lights and cars and lens flares and the road and reflections in windows) felt like cheating (if you are going to commit to a film that shows a single drive and nothing more, maybe keep the camera inside the car). When Knight isn’t sure how to transition from one of Locke’s conversations to the next, he resorts to these crappy shots (such shots may contribute to an aesthetic, but they do not advance or support the real content of the film). One also gets the sense that Knight’s film is afraid of silence, as these shots are used where one might expect a shot from inside car showing Ivan Locke driving without speaking as he waits for his next call.

Locke‘s constraints and deliberate minimalism are certainly intriguing, and the film tries to ask some worthwhile (and very much open-ended) questions. Ultimately, however, the film feels more like an interesting idea than it does a fully-realized work` of art.
Watch Locke now. 

Until Next Time
Thank u so much 4 reading ilu 4 real.

Also, in case you don’t like digging around for info, here’s a link to my letterboxd and twitter. Woo!

4 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: Short Term 12 and Locke

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