Much love to the well received Fantastic Fest Movie festival just beginning in Austin from September 24 to October 1, but who picked “The Keeping Room” as an opening night film? From director Daniel Barber and writer Julia Hart is a movie that could have been something special but just isn’t. The official movie poster proudly quotes “A Beautifully Breathless Revisionist Western.”
Set during the end of the Civil War, it’s a small somber film with an almost-screeching violin-esque sound track that makes you think something is about to happen every other moment but never does.
Three young ladies have been left alone with their men gone off to lose the war. Just as you can imagine, they have to take care of the farm and it’s no glory road as older sister Augusta (Brit Marling / Another Earth) looks after younger sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld /True Grit), and slave who stayed behind named Mad (Muna Ataru / The Wire).
When Louise falls prey to a raccoon bite and gets sick, supposedly because Mad didn’t watch over her, Augusta storms off to town in search of medicine to save her sister. That’s where she comes across two renegade, deserter soldiers who basically have nothing to live for, and care even less for the lives of the people around them. A strange attraction that could be something interesting if the circumstances were different, takes place between Augusta and would-be raper Moses (Sam Worthington). As Moses and his buddy take chase after Augusta finally colliding with her and her two companions at her home a sort of stand-off takes places that transforms into a duel of sorts. Reads more interesting than it is in the film unfortunately.
The movie finally ends and when you think something glorious is going to happen and redeem the hour and twenty-six minutes you invested in this film is about to pay out, you will sorely be mistaken and perhaps even annoyed. If the ending of the story was given away here in the next sentence you wouldn’t thank me. It’s that lame.
As much as any writer, art creator deserves respect for attempting to create something, and achieving it, it’s just hard to convey with respect that this film deserves attention. The writer and the director most likely agonized to get this film made, even capturing three excellent talents to star in it, but despite the effort the movie just doesn’t hit any redeeming notes. The story-telling is amateur and lackluster to say the least.
Technically speaking, the film looks fantastic. There’s nothing wrong with the cinematography, it’s just that the story tries to be brooding but there’s no reason for it. Little moments play out, but there’s no compelling element whatsoever to the story its self, nor the two dimensional characters. The production is just lifeless. Even with decent actors who are fully committed in their character portrayals, there just is no reason to watch them. If the story isn’t interesting at least give us some good characters but “The Keeping Room” does neither. A very flat movie with no compelling components whatsoever.
Moments when the story could have have done something interesting, it just plods along with no ending in sight. There’s no opportunity to bond with any of the characters, there’s no story-line that speaks to the audience and overall it’s just flat and lifeless. Every story, should answer the question why would someone want to watch this film, and there is no answer when applied to “The Keeping Room.” A better choice would be to see Brit Marling in her first film “Another Earth” now playing on Amazon that captures what this film attempted and failed to do.
Rating: R (for strong violence including a sexual assault)
Genre: Western, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Daniel Barber
Written By: Julia Hart
In Theaters: Sep 25, 2015 Limited
Runtime: 1 hr. 26 min.
Drafthouse Films – Official Site