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Another possible Oscar contender.
Jake Gyllenhaal Stars in "Brothers."
OPENING WEEKEND: $10,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $50,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

November 2nd, 2009: On his way to report for a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Danish Army officer Michael stops to pick up his brother Jannik, who is getting out of jail that day. In Afghanistan, Michael's helicopter crashes and he is presumed dead. Jannik and Michael's wife Sarah discover that they don't hate each other as much as they had thought, and Jannik decides to reform and make himself useful around Sarah's house. Then Michael comes home with a full-blown case of post traumatic stress disorder because of what he had to do to survive in captivity. Write your own ending and draw your own moral conclusions, if any.

What to Expect: You know, there have always been a lot of comparisons drawn between Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. And you know what? They're totally merited. Not only do they bear more than a passing resemblance to each other...both have dark hair and large deep-set blue eyes...but they've had virtually the same career, just offset by about five years, since Maguire is five years older.

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Both started out in quirky indie films about moody teenagers (Ice Storm & Pleasantville/Donnie Darko), then played disaffected young men in Oscar Bait films (Cider House Rules/The Good Girl). Both starred in highbrow literary adaptations in which they played a gay man (Wonder Boys/Brokeback Mountain) roughly at the same time as a big-budget summer blockbuster (Spider-Man/Day After Tomorrow). Both followed it up with another intense literary adaptation (Seabiscuit/Zodiac). And Jake's about ready to embark on his designated franchise when "Prince of Persia" opens next summer.

When Gyllenhaal debuted on the scene and started getting noticed everyone commented on how much he looked like Tobey Maguire, which he did. Honestly, they look less alike now than they did six years ago. Maguire has gotten gaunter and more character-actor while Gyllenhaal has grown into his dewy-eyed-youth looks and gotten more leading-man-ish. But they still look like they could be brothers, so boy howdy, how cool that they're finally playing brothers.

In a movie called "Brothers." Based on a Danish movie called "Brothers." The original was directed by Danish auteur Susanne Bier, director of "Things We Lost In the Fire," this American version is directed by Jim Sheridan, who has directed Daniel Day-Lewis not once, not twice, but three times.

Now would probably be a good time to point out that just about everybody in this movie is looking for some redemption, from the director on down. All enjoyed spectacular success some-odd years back and are still waiting to recapture it. The stink of "Spider-Man 3" is still hanging around Maguire's head, and he hasn't capitalized much on his big-budget success to further his dramatic career. Gyllenhaal has done several critically acclaimed films since "Brokeback Mountain" but has yet to find more box office success. Portman has been working a lot but has appeared in a number of flops (like the embarrassing "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium") and her last taste of success was 2005's "V for Vendetta." The screenwriter, David Benioff, used to have cred out the wazoo after he wrote the screenplay to "The 25th Hour," adapting it from his own novel...but since then he's penned the successful but hardly literary "Troy," the disappointing "The Kite Runner" and...shudder...this summer's atrocity of a Wolverine movie. Jim Sheridan had a string of high-profile and Oscar-nominated successes in the 1980s and 1990s, with "My Left Foot," "In the Name of the Father" and "The Boxer," but hasn't done much for the past ten years or so. "In America" is loved by some but made no noise financially, and then he inexplicably directed "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," starring...50 Cent. You know something's amiss when your leading men shift from Daniel Day-Lewis to Fiddy.

Anyway. Let's just say that everybody here has something to prove, not the least of which is the studio.

This movie was shot two years ago. In fact, I have it on some authority that Gyllenhaal was on the set of this film when he got the call that Heath Ledger had died, which was January of 2007. So where's it been all this time? Blame the studios. You'd think they'd want this movie in the theaters. It stars three appealing, popular and undeniably talented young actors, some of the best of their generation, in a film with a lot of dramatic appeal and Oscar potential. So wha happa? Relativity Media financed the film, which was supposed to be distributed by MGM. It was supposed to come out in the fall of 2008. But MGM then passed it on to Lionsgate, who hemmed and hawed and finally set it for December 09 release. Finally.

So. Movie.

A lot of the media are getting this movie wrong. Or at least I think they are. It's being described as a love triangle thing, leading some to make scoffing remarks about having already seen this film when it was called "Pearl Harbor," but that description isn't really warranted. The film, as far as I can discern, is more about Maguire's character and what he endures, and what it does to his relationships with both his wife and his brother. One article I read got it so wrong as to describe Gyllenhaal's character as "sensitive and responsible" when in fact he's the loser black-sheep jailbird one.

Maguire plays Capt. Sam Cahill, who is sent to Afghanistan. Portman is his wife and high-school sweetheart, Grace. They have two young daughters. Gyllenhaal plays Tommy Cahill, the family black sheep who just got out of prison in time to have an awkward conflict-filled farewell dinner for his brother. Sam is shot down and reported dead, but in reality has been taken as a POW. Grace grieves for her husband while Tommy steps up to help her take care of the kids and deal with the home-related issues. They grow closer and kiss.

Now, here's the thing. The media reports this as a torrid affair the two of them have, practically setting up housekeeping together, but I'm not sure that's the case. The Danish film has the characters only kiss once, then decide they can't take it any further even though they both acknowledge their attraction. In typical US fashion our film may have the characters go to bed, but it doesn't look to me as if they embark on some affair of the heart. Some outlets are even reporting that the brothers had both been in love with Grace for years which is definitely not the case; Grace seems to have hated Tommy before he started being Joe Responsible.

But all that becomes moot when Sam is discovered not quite dead yet, thanks. He's not ready to go on the cart. But he's endured something pretty horrible. If they keep to the original film, Sam would have been forced to kill a fellow prisoner to save his own life, which certainly seems like the case given some of the textual clues in the trailer. Sam returns but he is, as they say, not the same man. He's immediately suspicious of Grace and Tommy's relationship, he's paranoid, he's withdrawn...he's PTSDing all over the place. Things escalate, Tommy tries to hold things together, generally it looks like it might not end well for anybody.

The Danish film is very dark. It'd be nice to think that the US filmmakers would be willing to be just as dark, but historically that's never the case. All the same it's hard to imagine them pulling a happy-happy-joy-joy ending out of this storyline no matter what they do.

This film will hinge on the performances and the writing. All three of these actors have delivered some astonishingly mature performances in the past given their youth...but all three of them have proven that they're capable of stinking up the place as well as anyone else, too. A director like Sheridan ought to be able to coax good performances out of them. Gyllenhaal especially has the tough part. Maguire's role is showier, with big manic scenes and large explosions of emotions. The stuff that looks cool but is in truth easier on the actor because it's not so subtle. Gyllenhaal's character undergoes a slower character shift and has to be the center of things as they fall apart. Plus he's playing against type. Now that he's out of the emo-youth stage of his career, Gyllenhaal plays almost exclusively nice guys. Playing a disaffected criminal type might present a challenge.

A lot of what we see onscreen will probably also be informed by what went on behind the scenes and the actors' real-life relationships. I've heard rumors that Gyllenhaal and Maguire don't get along that well. This isn't the first time their paths have crossed. Gyllenhaal was set to take over the Spider-Man franchise if Maguire's back didn't allow him to continue. The constant comparisons people have been making for years have to grate on both of them. And I heard a quasi-ridiculous rumor that they fought on the set over...get ready...use of the makeup artist. Yeah, go figure. Actually if they're not best buds offscreen that'll probably help their performances, since the characters have a fractious relationship. Gyllenhaal and Portman, on the other hand, are old friends and know each other well, so their onscreen chemistry will probably be fine. Unless they know each other TOO well, which can get you into uncomfy "it's like kissing my sister" territory.

In Conclusion: Lionsgate is clearly hoping for big Oscar attention for this film. All the pieces are in place, that's for sure. It could be a fantastic movie. I'm optimistic. A family drama starring hot young stars with big drama is a good bet for the holiday season and provides a welcome respite from stuff like "A Christmas Carol." Yecccch.

Similar Titles: In America, Brothers
December 4th, 2009 (wide)
March 23rd, 2010 (DVD)

Lions Gate Films

Jim Sheridan

Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Ray Prewitt

Total: 12 vote(s).

Drama, War/Western

Click here to view site

Rated R for language and some disturbing violent content.

110 min





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