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Posts Tagged ‘small town’

Marlon Brando is Johnny Strabler, the leader of a motorbike gang who arrive in the (fictional) town of Wrightsville, California, and, initially just being boisterous are welcomed (or at the least, tolerated) by the residents.  However, when the gang’s behaviour turns dangerous and threatening, the town’s residents decide to take matters into their own hands.  Meanwhille, Johnny meets a young woman named Kathie (played by Mary Murphy), who works in the local cafe, and despite their very different background and lifestyles, there is an attraction between them.

I wasn’t sure whether I would really like this film, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  Brando epitomises 50s rebellion, and (sorry to be shallow) he oozes sex appeal.  I loved his portrayal of Johnny, as a man who is more than what he appears on the surface; it’s clear that Johnny has not known much love and affection in his life, and is looking for something to rebel against (when asked, “What are you rebelling against?” he answers, “Whaddaya got?”).  He almost steals every scene he is in, and would have done, were it not for the fine performance of Mary Murphy as Kathie, who is very attracted to Johnny, but doesn’t understand his lifestyle.  Robert Keith is also notable for his role as Chief Bleeker, the town’s only law enforcement officer, who seems unable to cope with the gang.

The story takes place over just a few days, and despite feeling somewhat aged (but come on, this film is 61 years old!), the film captures the tension and claustrophobic atmosphere of the town.

Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me, and a film that I would definitely recommend, not only for it’s excellent performances, but also for being a classic, and one of the first films to highlight the issue of gang violence.

Year of release: 1953

Director: Laslo Benedek

Producer: Stanley Kramer

Writers: Frank Rooney (short story), John Paxton, Ben Maddow

Main cast: Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith, Lee Marvin, Jay C. Flippen, Hugh Sanders, Ray Teal

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The small town of Karakarook, New South Wales, is divided about it’s old bridge.  Some of them want it pulled down as it is unsafe, and others want to preserve it for the sake of heritage.  Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman arrive in Karakarook and find themselves on opposite sides of the argument.

Harley and Douglas are both emotionally stunted, shocked almost into numbness by events in their respective histories, and when they meet each other, neither of them know how to begin to open up to another person – and neither of them wants to risk being vulnerable.  Can these two lost souls find happiness within themselves….?

Woven into the story about Harley, Douglas and the bridge, is the tale of Felicity Porcelline, unhappily married to the manager of the bank in Karakarook.  Felicity is obsessed with the idea of perfection – of looking perfect (to the extent where she is frightened to smile or even nod her head, for fear of causing wrinkles), of running a perfect home and giving the appearance of a perfect life.  But Felicity’s life and marriage are far from perfect.

Initially I did not think I would enjoy this book (near the beginning there seemed to be a lot of description about the bridge and how it was built, which I found slightly tedious).  However, I found myself being drawn in by the characters and setting.  The book was incredibly evocative and I really felt able to imagine life in Karakarook, with the heat, the dust and flies, and the residents who knew everything about each others lives.  There are some genuinely funny moments as incidental parts of the day are described, but the book was also very touching and moving.

Harley and Douglas were both likeable – they were brittle, unconfident and unsure about their place in their world.  They were very human with good intentions, but had very believable flaws and idiosyncrasies.  Felicity on the other hand was actually a very sad character.  It was clear that while she was eager to show outward perfection, she actually felt that her life was very empty – her looks were so important to her because they were all she felt she had.  Her perfectly decent husband and child don’t being her any contentment (at one stage she describes forgetting to pick her child up from school because she was giving herself a face pack), and so she seeks reassurance and satisfaction in other areas.  She was not an immediately pleasant character, but her sadness was very apparent.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this story, and would certainly search out more books by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is such an unusual movie, I’m not sure how to begin reviewing it.  Ryan Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, a young man living in a small town.  Lars finds it difficult to interact with anybody, including his brother and sister-in-law, who do their best to include him at their meals etc.  So everyone is surprised when he announces he has a new girlfriend – but not as surprised as they are when they meet her…for Bianca is a life sized doll who Lars has ordered from the internet.  However, he is oblivious to the fact that she is anything other than a living breathing person, and has created a whole backstory for her.

Initially the people in the small town where Lars lives (never named, but possibly Minnesota) are shocked and not sure how to react, but due to their affection for Lars, they go along with the charade and eventually find themselves starting to care for Bianca and welcome her as one of the community.

If all this sounds very weird, that’s because it is!  It isn’t however disturbing, and neither does it have any sexual under or overtones (quite the opposite indeed, as Lars explains that both he and Bianca are deeply religious and therefore do not want to have sex).

I thought Ryan Gosling was outstanding as Lars.  In the hands of a poorer actor, this part could have been reduced to a silly comedic part.  However, he brings a real sense of vulnerability to Lars and I found it impossible not to care about him.  Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider provide excellent support as his sister in law and brother, who feel worry and guilt over the direction that Lars life has taken.  Patricia Clarkson also shines as the doctor who initially advises them to go along with the delusion.  While she essentially plays a supporting role, she creates a fully fleshed character, whose emotions and feelings come through in beautiful clarity.  I’m surprised that neither she not Gosling picked up at least an Oscar nomination for this film.

It’s not a comedy, despite the premise perhaps suggesting that it is.  Instead, this film is a gentle study of a young man struggling to cope with his demons, and his family struggling to accept the situation.  It’s also a lovely (if slightly sugar-coated) portrayal of a small town community overcoming reservations and casting off prejudices to help one of their own.

Unusual and rather lovely, I would definitely recommend this film.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Nancy Oliver

Main cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider

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