Might be a tad overrated
Well, here we are. My last film review of 2016. Obviously I intentionally saved Manchester by the Sea for last, as I was hoping for it to be as good a film as something like Room was. Unfortunately, though, 2016's version of Room goes to Lion, as Manchester by the Sea failed to emotionally wreck me like either of those two films did. Don't get me wrong-it is an emotional film filled with dramatic moments and buoyed by an Oscar-worthy performance from Casey Affleck, (real-life issues aside) but this film really just.....didn't quite move me like others have this year, and I think I might have to call this one "overrated." It felt more like The Revenant than Room, unfortunately. Now, I'm not taking anything away from this film by saying that, nor am I taking anything away from The Revenant. It's good-I'm not denying that-I'm just saying that it's not.....that good.
So, as is typical around here, let's start with the good. And the good starts with Casey Affleck. The controversy of "does Casey Affleck deserve an Oscar" will be saved for another post where it's appropriate, because here I like to try and look at just the film itself. And yes, within the film itself Casey Affleck is outstanding. He puts in a performance that can rival anything his older brother Ben has done over the years, (except maybe The Town) and on its own merit is more than deserving of an Oscar nomination. To be honest, Affleck plays this role so well I thought he was just playing himself, but he's also asked to display a wide range of emotions throughout the film. Taken just on its own merits, this is probably the best performance from a male actor in 2016. That said, I really feel that the cast is Casey Affleck and Casey Affleck alone. The other Oscar nominee, Michelle Williams, is good, but nowhere near Oscar-worthy good. She has a total of four scenes in this film, two of which are just her in the background. She has one emotional scene with Casey Affleck, which was a great scene no doubt but not enough to merit an Oscar nomination. This spot should've gone to someone like Janelle Monae from Hidden Figures or even Rooney Mara from Lion. Anyone, really. Not 10 minutes of Michelle Williams. Kyle Chandler is pretty good in this, as well as Lucas Hedges, but nobody else had the same pomp and circumstance as Casey. Now, I've spent this much time on the acting because it's the centerpiece of this film-there really are no risks taken whatsoever in the technical department outside of a few clever cuts out of editor Jennifer Lame, but really outside of that there's not a whole lot going on with this film. Which is a shame because it's directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who does have some excellent films under his belt from a screenplay/director standpoint.
As for the screenplay....it's.....fine. Well, no. It's good. It's a good tale of someone being thrust into a position they do not want to be in and having to figure out how to deal with it, but it's also a tale I've seen before. However it does end in a pretty good way that was....unexpected. As a result I did like the ending simply because it was different. But never was there a moment where I found myself an emotional trainwreck. There were certainly moments where I was supposed to feel that way, but I just never rocked the ugly cry. I honestly cannot tell you why this was the case. Maybe it's because I never once felt like I could identify with the son, Patrick? That might have something to do with it-the guy is kind of a jerk who does not treat Casey Affleck with a lot of respect-this might have turned me off just a tad to the story. Maybe if Hedges had looked at Affleck the same way Jacob Tremblay looked at Brie Larson in Room.....I would've been more emotional. But that would've also been out of place with this film because there are totally different circumstances going on here. I just......I don't know. Obviously I'm trying to figure this out as I go along, but I think I'm onto it, so I'm gonna go with the answer to "why was I not emotional during this film" as "Affleck's nephew, played by Lucas Hedges, is portrayed as a jerk. Final answer."
Ok I spent way too much time trying to figure that out, and it may sound like I'm trying to take away something from what was an otherwise good film. I think I have stumbled on why I don't think this film will crack my top ten this year, but hey....maybe you find Patrick a lot more likable and identifiable than I did. Maybe you have a completely different opinion about this film and think it is one of the best of 2016. But that's not me. While I'm glad I saw it, and I can safely say Casey Affleck puts in one of the best performances of 2016, Manchester by the Sea definitely failed to leave that emotional impact I was looking for. However I still look forward to seeing what Kenneth Lonergan does next. Iiiiiiiiiiin 2025.
The Critique: Despite a great performance from its lead, Manchester by the Sea failed to leave any sort of emotional impact on me thanks to poorly written teenager character that is a centerpiece for the film.
The Recommendation: Look, if you can get past what I disliked in Patrick, you will likely enjoy this film. It's also worth watching if you like the ol' comeback story for Hollywood. Even if that comeback is coming back from sexual assault allegations.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
Well, there you have it! The last review of 2016. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Now onto lists, lists, and more lists!