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SFF’13 Movie Review: “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

January 28, 2013

aintthem“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is this years “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, they share one major common thing; modern day fairy tale. While they share that right, they couldn’t be more than different in the story department.

Marking his feature debut, and with a little push from the Sundance Institute backing the film, writer/director David Lowery brings a different take to the Bonnie-and-Clyde-esq crime drama. With a trio of remarkable talent in front of it all; Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster, impressive visual style, and unique musical melody, I can almost guarantee this has Oscar bait written all over it.

Set in a small Texas town, a couple of small time crooks (and lovers) Ruth (Mara) & Bob (Affleck) pull off one last ‘job’ that could set them for a happy life together. Unfortunately they’re caught, leading to a shoot out at their gangs meet up. Ruth & Bob lose one of their own, leading Ruth to shoot for herself, she opens fire on a Sheriff’s Deputy, Patrick (Foster), far off in the distance. Bob takes the blame so that Ruth will not have to endure prison as a pregnant woman. Nearly five years have passed, Bob has escaped from prison, making his journey from far and beyond to retrieve the money and make it to his family. But the authorities, including the mild mannered Patrick are aware of his escape and are waiting for the inevitable to happen, meanwhile a band of cowboy hat wearing strangers are hot on Bob’s trail seeking their cut.

One thing I want to take into account is how well this movie hides it’s time period. It could certainly be set in just about any era between 1940-today, it had this sort of timeless feeling. The darkly rich color palette selected for this film enhances this odyssey-like world so beautifully. The music, I’m all about music when it comes to movies and the composer, Daniel Hart, makes this odd yet soothing choice for a theme that has to do with, what sounds to me like, sticks clapping at a distinct sort of pattern, the theme helps adding to this timeless feel.

The acting is superb, Rooney Mara is finding her way to the right roles post-“Nightmare on Elm Street”, and to me I think she’s trying to redeem herself from that horrid movie by making it up to us for doing such daring, brave, and heartwarming performances. She plays a mother and a wife in this film, sadly she distant from her man, leaving her to care for their child, and it’s interesting to see how Mara plays the mother role so candidly this early in her career. Not for a moment did it come off as phony or even forced. Another performance I really liked was Ben Foster, who typically can play the off-color, sometimes psychotic nut at times, but here this is the most mellow and shy I’ve ever seen him. You can see that his character really cares a lot for Ruth, but he knows that he can’t or shouldn’t take it any farther than it should, and it’s compelling to see how he plays off that notion.

It all comes down to an ending I found suitable, perhaps a dash predictable, but for how the movie was being played out it was appropriately suitable to where it ends up. Not everyone believes in a happily ever after, but if certain people can end up happy by the end, then the movie accomplished something very dear.

GRADE: A-

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