Watching Animal Kingdom right after Winter's Bone really highlighted the importance of character development. In this Austrian film, 17-year-old Josh gets dragged into the family business of illegal activity after his mom dies. The successful string of robberies his four uncles pull off lead to increased pressure for the law to shut them down. The band of brothers are ruled by their mother, Josh's grandmother, that they lovingly call Smurf. Played by Jacki Weaver, who earned a Best Actress in a Supporting Role nominee, Smurf (Janine) is a contrasting blend of wholesome sweetness and cold-blooded manipulation. She can turn on the charm and make you feel secure while stabbing you in the back. She is exactly the kind of person your mother warned you not to accept candy from.
The sequence of events in the story is interesting and provides some fairly tense moments, but I never got invested or connected with any of the characters. When Josh's mom dies in the opening scene he can't be bothered with the paramedics, because he's too interested in watching a game show. That's exactly how I felt watching his family self-destruct - who cares! The only attempt at building any kind of bond with these people is via a sappy voice over from Josh at the beginning - think Jake Sully in Avatar. In Winter's Bone I was cheering for the teenage underdog surrounded by wicked relatives; with Animal Kingdom, I was just wanted them all to go away.
So Animal Kingdom ends up near the bottom of my list of 25 movies to see before Oscar Night 2011.
RANKING of OSCAR 2011 MUST-SEES (so far):
- True Grit
- Winter's Bone
- The Town
- Toy Story 3
- How to Train Your Dragon
- The Kids Are All Right
- Animal Kingdom
- Alice in Wonderland
Up next... The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo