The Woodsman

Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman

 

 

There are two big default ideas in Hollywood movies and in The Woodsman we have not just a fine film about a paedophile but also a film tackling these two notions head on. The first of Hollywood’s mantras is “be yourself”. The second: “you can have anything if you want it enough” – often expressed as “never give up on your dream”. In The Woodsman Kevin Bacon plays Walter, a fresh-from-prison paedophile who would give anything not to be himself, a man who would love to give up his dream – of having sex with young children. Unfortunately for Walter, his insane bail conditions force him to live over the road from – hollow laugh – a school.

This is a dark, disturbing drama and a gift of a role for Bacon, an actor who often looks as if he’s on the verge of something unpleasant. Here he’s well backed up by Mos Def and Benjamin Bratt and in particular by Kyra Sedgwick, another actor with a nose for a difficult role. The fact that she’s Bacon’s wife in real life probably helps. If The Woodsman’s subject matter is the stuff of tabloid newspaper rabble-rousing, the tone is anything but – downbeat, all muted colours and with a soundtrack that’s relentlessly minor in key. And Bacon really elicits sympathy for his struggle against his condition. Most interestingly, because the usual, glib “be yourself” or “follow your dream” guff can’t be accessed, this film is actually forced into a corner that most films don’t find themselves in. How it gets out from there provides an additional belt of interest. Not that this dreama really needs any.

© Steve Morrissey 2004

 

The Woodsman – at Amazon

 

 

Stir of Echoes

Kevin Bacon in Stir of Echoes

 

 

Somewhere around 1984 it seemed that Kevin Bacon might become a matinee idol, a prettyboy star. But he had a few things going against him. The name Kevin, for instance. Not to mention Bacon. After starring in Footloose, he went through film after film pitching his voice low, his face looking like the site of some vague plastic surgery mishap. He had the odd hit, such as Tremors, but for the most part he became a support player in bigger films, JFK and The River Wild and Apollo 13, in which he played the benighted astronaut not played by Tom Hanks or Bill Paxton. Bacon became, in fact, a perennial “nearly” man, the butt of that meta-joke game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Then he discovered spooky and things started going his way. Stir of Echoes is the film he discovered it in. Coming out in 1999, the same year as The Sixth Sense, this similarly flavoured tale is dark and gripping and sees Bacon playing a sceptic who finds the “Other Side” is invading his life after a larky party-game hypnosis session. Bacon is perfectly cast – first as the arsy know-all who believes that blanket scepticism marks him out as some sort of rival to Einstein, then as the psycho oddball being driven into increasingly desperate corners by his desire to find out what is possessing him. It’s a brilliant performance of a man on the edge, and it marked a change in Bacon’s career. He started being good, almost all the time, in films that needed that unsettling presence – Hollow Man, Mystic River, The Woodsman. He stopped trying to be a bland leading man and accepted that he was, at some things, about as good as it gets. David Koepp’s thriller mixes the mundane with the extreme, gives Bacon his head, and throws in some superb cinematography (by Fred Murphy) as an added bonus. If you want an excuse to get scared and cuddle up to someone, this should bring home the proverbial.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Stir of Echoes – at Amazon