For starters, the film can be considered independent because of its $18,000,000 budget which is well under the average Hollywood budget. Although the film adapts certain Hollywood style such as having a linear plot, it also has independent characteristics. The primary characteristic that shows the film’s independent roots is the camera work. There are many scenes where the camera has extreme close ups during times of emotional turmoil, such as when Murphy is crying over Eddie. There are also independent elements in the fact that the camera angles allow the viewer to really be a part of the action. For example, when Eddie and Joey are fighting, the camera is right there on the ground with them as if the viewer is caught up in the scuffle as well. The narrative and theme of the film, itself is also typical of independent style. Although Hollywood may create a film about mental illness it definitely would not be as raw and real as an independent portrayal. The ending was also typical of independent style because in Hollywood, a wife with a husband of ten years and three beautiful children that lives in a huge house, would never leave her life behind in an instant for a mentally ill man that she was with a decade ago.
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All three of the actors strived to achieve an accurate portrayal of an East Coast attitude and succeeded. They all fit well in the setting and really made the story come to life. Penn did a wonderful job of encompassing the feeling of a mentally ill man. His slight accent an the genuine look of illness in his eyes contributed perfectly to the feeling of the film. Wright encompassed the feelings of love, despair, and loneliness really well and it was as if the viewer could actually feel her pain in having her boyfriend sent away. Travolta also did an excellent job playing the new husband and acted almost as if any husband would act in the situation. All of these great actors combined, brought genuine life to the story and their great, true portrayals of the feelings and sentiments of each of their characters allowed the viewer to connect and react emotionally to the story in a way that they might not have without such great acting. The love, hate, and despair between the characters was palpable for the viewers and it was because of this great dynamic that each of the actors had with each other. Not only was each actor able to accurately portray their character, but they were also able to accurately communicate as their character would during dialogue.
The film’s setting really contributed greatly to its value. The film is set on the East Coast where life is hard and the mood is low and there is even, almost a dinginess to the atmosphere. The rain and poor weather add an element of sadness and loneliness to the film yet the setting also adds some positivity. The feeling of family or belonging in this dingy, sad city is demonstrated through the interactions at the bar, the family that gladly opens their doors to give the couple a meal on a cold night, and the ticket lady who allows Eddie to give her an IOU. This element of love and caring give the characters a feeling of home and safety in a fairly dangerous and sad city, which adds to the overall mood and tone of the movie. I don’t think that the movie would have had the same impact had it been set in a different area. For instance, when the setting does change from the inner city to a more suburban, sunny area, the entire mood changes. Murphy’s looks changed (over time presumably) so she may be able to fit in this suburban area but when Eddie, Shorty, and Georgie arrive in the suburbs they look completely out of place. Furthermore, had the entire film been shot in such a sunny, suburban area then the film would lack the raw emotional sadness and impact of living in such a low, dingy place.
The ending was particularly interesting for me because it combined elements of both independent and Hollywood style. For example, in a Hollywood film, the mother would never leave her “wonderful” life for her mentally ill ex-lover. Similarly, in an independent feature there is rarely a happy, Hollywood ending. Yet this film is able to combine both of these elements to create a truly powerful closing to the film. At first, when I realized that Murphy was, in fact, going to leave her own flesh and blood behind I was absolutely heart broken and I found myself wondering if this women, herself, had a mental illness to be able to leave her kin behind, so I definitely felt sadness in this aspect. Although this sadness was in a way calmed or lessened at the very end when Eddie and Murphy are looking into each others eyes with an almost overwhelming, beautiful sentiment of love and adoration. The fact that they felt so strongly of each other after so many years almost makes them seem like they are soul mates and this filled me with warmth that two soul mates were able to be together once again after such a long period of separation. In fact, Penn and Wright’s acting and chemistry was so strong that I literally forgot about her forgotten children and husband and my heart sided with them because their chemistry and love seemed so undeniable on screen.
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