Tag Archives: Anthony LaPaglia

It Takes a Village


by Hope Madden

About a decade ago, director Justin Kurzel made one amazing true crime film. Working from a script by Shaun Grant, Kurzel took a notorious crime spree and created the most realistic and unnerving film of 2011 in Snowtown.

The pair reteamed for 2019’s underseen treasure based on true Australian events, True History of the Kelly Gang. They are back, once again digging into the seedier side of Aussie history with another true crime in Nitram.

In 1996, Martin Bryant murdered 35 people, injuring another 23 in Port Arthur, Tasmania. The horror led to immediate gun reform in the nation, but Kurtzel and Grant are more interested in what came before than after.

Playing the unnamed central figure (Nitram is Martin spelled backward), Caleb Landry Jones has never been better, and that’s saying something. He is one of the most versatile actors working today, effortlessly moving from comedy to drama, from terrifying to charming to awkward to ethereal. There is an aching tenderness central to every performance. (OK, maybe not Get Out, but that would have been weird.)

Kurzel surrounds him with veteran talent at the top of their games. Essie Davis matches Landry Jones’s with a fragile, winsome turn as the older misfit who becomes his friend. Anthony LaPaglia creates a believable, gentle presence as Martin’s father, while the formidable Judy Davis nails every nuance as his complicated, hard mother.

She’s mesmerizing and award-worthy.

Looking at the making of the monster is no new concept in film, and it’s often a misfire, either romanticizing or relishing in the lurid. Nitram does neither. Grant’s greatest gift as a writer may be his ability to mine difficult terrain without sentiment. (His script for Cate Shortland’s crushing 2017 thriller Berlin Syndrome is his greatest triumph in this area.)

Nitram looks at how nature and nurture are to blame. Socialization plus parenting plus bad wiring is exacerbated by the isolation and loneliness they demand. Everyone is to blame. It’s a conundrum the film nails.

But it’s Landry Jones you’ll remember. He’s terrifying but endlessly sympathetic in a bleak film that’s a tough but rewarding watch.

Calling Dr. Phil


A Good Marriage

by George Wolf


The last time Stephen King wrote a screenplay the results were, to be polite, disappointing. The film was Sleepwalkers and to be impolite, it sucked out loud.

But hey, that was 22 years ago, so let’s forget about the past and focus on how much better his latest screenwriting project turned out. With A Good Marriage, King expands his own short story into an intimate, no frills feature built on love, secrets, sex and murder.

Anthony LaPaglia and Joan Allen are Bob and Darcy, a longtime couple who are still plenty hot for each other, and who have the type of marriage others point to as being ideal.

The situation around their New Hampshire home is a bit more troubling. There is a serial killer in the area, and though news reports of the latest victim dominate the evening news, Bob and Darcy have family matters to attend to.

Their daughter’s wedding is at hand, and after the happy day, Bob leaves on a business trip. Alone in their big house, Darcy is tackling some household errands when she happens upon a secret stash of evidence that undoubtedly links her loving husband to a very dangerous double life.

From there, King and director Peter Askin have some fun with the thriller genre, leaving you unsure just how much of Darcy’s life with her now-suspicious husband is really happening. As you might expect, the two veteran leads take full advantage, with Allen especially delivering a rich performance that effortlessly swings between domestic bliss and survivalist cunning.

Scene-stealing honors go to Stephen Lang (Avatar) as an old-time detective tracking the killer. King gives him some juicy dialogue, and his scenes with Allen display a delicious back and forth tinged with a darkly comical mutual admiration.

In fact, it’s a shame A Good Marriage doesn’t explore its wickedly humorous edges more completely. It could have beefed up a story that’s stretched thin at times, and ridden three fine performances to even higher ground.