“And the Oscar goes to …”
Yes, folks, I have Oscar faith in “Conviction.” From start to finish, this film commands your full attention and I think it’s going to succeed at the next Academy Awards on both the acting as well as technical levels.
“Conviction” is an absolute gem of a film and a fine display of what cinema should evoke in all of us. From the talent on screen to the story to the camera work to the score, “Conviction” is a film that won’t be easily forgotten.
“Conviction” is a love story. But it’s not a love story in the sense that “The Notebook” was a love story, as it captures the love and devotion of siblings Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell). The siblings have a rough upbringing, are often in trouble, but are always together. When Kenny is convicted of first degree murder, Betty Anne embarks on an 18-year journey to free him. She gets her G.E.D. and then proceeds to go to college and eventually law school. The film follows Betty Anne on her quest through the hardships she faced as a mother, wife, sister and person.
Along the way, Betty Anne becomes friends with Abra Rice (Minnie Driver) who becomes not only a gal pal to Betty Anne, but also her aide in proving Kenny’s innocence. Driver provides us with what I think is one of her finest performances. She is a chameleon and can really command a performance with a look, or a single line. Driver nails the accent required of her and also brings some very funny one-liners and scenes to the movie. I wasn’t expecting much humor from a film like this, but the jokes were tastefully placed, bringing a very pleasing balance to the screen. And Juliette Lewis — who plays Rosanna Perry, one of the key witnesses who provided testimony which led to Kenny’s conviction — is brilliant, even though her part was small. She brings a lot of humor to her role, although in her case, I’m not entirely sure it was intentional.
For me, watching Hilary Swank act is like seeing da Vinci paint or listening to Mozart perform. Her ability to access pure raw emotion is truly marvelous to see. I definitely see another Oscar nomination in her future. Another actress who I feel should be acknowledged is Melissa Leo, who portrays one of the cops who worked Kenny’s case. In the best movies, the “bad guy” doesn’t believe themselves to be a bad guy, and I think Leo played to that aspect exceptionally well. Plus, if you are finding yourself really disgruntled with a bad guy on film, that just means the actor did his or her job.
And that brings me to one Mr. Sam Rockwell. If Rockwell does not get an Oscar for this role, he will have been cheated, plain and simple. He had me laughing, crying, hoping and contemplating. Not only is it the best performance of his career it is easily the best performance by an actor I have seen all year. Much in the way Charlize Theron BECAME Aileen Wuornos in “Monster,” Rockwell BECAME Kenneth Waters. His embodiment is very much something to be admired and envied.
“Conviction” is a MUST see come Oct. 15. I am a little surprised it will be a limited release, but there is no doubt in my mind that the wide release will quickly follow, once word gets out about at how amazing it is. Film festival buzz did not do this film justice. It was praised but there is no praise great enough for a film of this caliber. This is where cinema needs to be. Old Hollywood wasn’t about special effects or 3D or anything like that, it was about talent. (Note: I am not bashing special effects and/or 3D, I am in love with those aspects too, it’s what makes cinematic adventures fun.)
The film is rated R for language and some violent images.
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