Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Unsimple Twists Are Well-Explored In A Simple Twist Of Fate

The Good: Funny, Witty, Intelligent, Well-acted, Cinematography
The Bad: Utterly predictable plot
The Basics: Witty dialog, excellent actors actually acting and a very even pace overwrite the plot, which the intellectually aware viewer may easily predict within five minutes of the film's opening.

Steve Martin is one of "those comedians" who it's almost hard to take seriously. Or he used to be. More and more he's been displaying his other side, the one that is intelligent, dignified and, well, adult. A few years ago, while reading The New Yorker, I was quite delighted to realize that the Steve Martin whose article I was finding brilliantly ironic and sophisticatedly sardonic was THAT Steve Martin, the same one who amused me with less than intelligent humor in Three Amigos when I was too young to know better.

That said A Simple Twist Of Fate is a far better outing than I anticipated. Martin is wonderful as an adult being . . . an adult!

The plot is based upon George Eliot's novel Silas Marner which I've yet to read, so my film review is pretty pure. A miserly man, played by Martin, is robbed of a very valuable gold coin collection. (The robber, by the by, is played by none other than Stephen Baldwin, which is pretty nice). Dejected, he becomes a recluse and spends his days in isolation making furniture.

Following the robbery, a woman drives off into the snowy night. This is completely unrelated to the robbery, so don't think I've lost my finesse for these reviews! Rather abruptly, we're in a car with a rejected drug addict woman and her toddler daughter. She drives off in the cold night until her car runs out of gas. Then, she gets out and walks with her daughter out into the snow. Her daughter, being significantly smarter, walks away when her mom sets her down and she walks into Michael McCann's (Martin's miserly character) cabin. Michael finds her there, finds her mom dead in the snow and contacts the local constabulary, played by . . . Gabriel Byrne.

Okay, here's the big disclaimer about this film; No one, absolutely no one I know, expects the film to be as good as it is. And it's an excellent film.

Michael gets custody of the toddler, names her, of all things, Mathilda and what follows is the next ten years of their life together. Michael is largely successful as a parent, being involved and actually inspiring his daughter. It is in this period that the film defies our low expectations for it. Martin here acts, and he does it well, and the various aged girls playing Mathilda, they act. Martin seems to be paired up with the Dream Child Actresses as each one is a gem, distinctively creating Mathilda at her various ages.

All the while, seeds are planted with Gabriel Byrne's political character and the latter half of the film is spent as a legal debate over who ought to have custody of Mathilda.

The film is surprisingly engaging, surprisingly intelligent and well plotted, if a bit predictable. The characters are well fleshed out and the relationships that develop are quite extraordinary.

It seems like there ought to be more analysis than that, but the truth is, there doesn't. What the film is truly about is the nature of parenthood. In the first half of the film, we see that defined through the actions of Michael and Mathilda. In the second half of the movie, we see that challenged and going into the court case would ruin the end of the film for you.

The simple, yet thorough, analysis of the movie is that A Simple Twist Of Fate is a nice bit of filmmaking which takes the time to define parenting, then spends the remainder defending that view. How refreshing!

I, personally, am loathe to do ruin the end of a film; especially for a film that so pleasantly surprised me. Give it a chance; it will do the same for anyone who likes a good family story.

For other family-oriented films, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Spitfire Grill
Baby Mama


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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