Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play a liberal couple whose kid was beaten up by another kid whose parents are A types played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. Over the course of an afternoon (the film happens in real time) both couples try to come up with a civilized solution to their problem. The problem is, nobody really knows what the problem is. For the parents of the victim, it's something about having their child's integrity restored, for the parents of the abuser, the issue has to do with how many time they're losing trying to understand "child's play". Before soon, the couples are going at each other like their kids did. Roman Polanski, who's always been a fan of confinement, takes the concept to a whole new level in his adaptation of Yasmina Reza's play about the Russian doll-ness of our society. The film is superbly acted (Foster is phenomenal!) but more often than not its purpose seems to be rather vacuous. Is it an exercise for its thespians? A playground diversion for its director? Or can it be simply that the source material never had that much to say?
Few actresses are as magnetic and fascinating as Vera Farmiga. She always conveys a sense of mystery and parallel earthiness that make her seem like a pre-Raphaelite goddess who's come to life out of a painting to say something about our world. In Higher Ground, her directorial debut, she does just that by teaching us a lesson about newborn evangelical Christians. While the movies often have conversion as the twist and usually the enemy of liberal purposes, Farmiga takes her time to observe these people and show us that - gasp - they too are human! Despite their narrow minded world views, despite their beliefs that rely on an unseen force and despite their constant bible quoting, they are not "the enemy". That Farmiga manages to do this without being preachy and instead injecting the film with a languorous sensuality might be the real miracle in store.
We Need to Talk About Kevin **½
Higher Ground **½