mark’s review published on Letterboxd:
About twenty minutes into this viewing, I started making a list of reasons why this is my favorite movie by lightyears. I got to 115, let's see how many I can transcribe before collapsing.
1. Anna Paquin's performance as Lisa is one of the most astonishing pieces of acting ever committed to film. Performances within performances, she is such a physical actress that Lisa really consumes her. Paquin is also quite beautiful, but in such a way that's really difficult to quantify that makes her looks a huge asset to the role.
2. J. Smith-Cameron
3. Stephen Adley Guirgis
4. Mark Ruffalo
5. Allison Janney
6. Matt Damon
7. Matthew Broderick
8. Olivia Thirlby
9. The usage of opera music — all knowledge of cliche tells us that opera music should not be used lest it provoke an eye-roll from ironical audiences, but Lonergan doesn't listen and creates something amazing.
10. The diner scene
11. The juxtaposition of the diner scene with the restaurant scene
12. The slow-mo
13. The way that the movie is a fuck you to auteurism. Really, this movie could be shot and edited in any way and it would still be equally as powerful, proving that directors really are useless and that cinema is nothing more than a medium for dramatics, not some amazing art form in and of itself.
14. This movie gets what being a working actor is actually like (*glares at Birdman*)
15. Lonergan's dialogue is genuinely naturalistic, not that fake vacuous naturalism that comes from actors improvising their dialogue.
16. "well get them the fuck away from me!"
17. LISA COHEN - the next time I watch this movie I'll just write about her, but basically she is one of only two characters to come out of a movie (along with Bonnie from Only Angels Have Wings) that actually feels like a person and a valuable and singular consciousness
18. The anxiety of every character.
19. The recognition of the sexual behavior of older people.
20. The recognition of the sexual behavior of younger people.
21. Lisa's speech patterns are different depending on who she's talking to.
22. The way that Lisa and her mom love each other.
23. The way that Lisa and her mom hate each other.
24. Maturity and immaturity being found in staggeringly bizarre ratios in different people, with nobody being pinned to either extreme.
25. Lonergan's ability to write a genuinely complicated morality play (something that he and Lucas Hnath share)
26. The recognition of the race and gender of every character.
27. The teenagers all know big words but don't always have big thoughts.
28. The portrayal of post 9/11 New York (relevant info: this movie takes place in the fall of 2002)
29. Characters interrupt each other all the time.
30. "it's censorship" "oh my god, it's not"
31. All instruments are played badly
32. Lonergan's hatred of toxic masculinity
33. Joan's play being revealed as a comedy.
34. "It was okay" "Why thank you, honey"
35. Characters who use sarcasm also not being able to recognize others' sarcasm
36. Lonergan's beautiful ability to write exposition without it sounding clunky.
37. The opening of the film sounds like the ocean, but it's actually cars in New York
38. Everybody in New York lives their lives being observed by others. We even die in public.
39. Lisa and her dad's relationship, full of resentment just barely bubbling under the surface.
40. The recognition of the awkwardness of phone calls.
41. Joan and Ramon's relationship being totally lopsided.
42. Kieran Culkin
43. Lisa's personality shift when talking to Paul.
44. "I guess I'm not very consistent"
45. The sound design
46. Mr. Aaron's fake forgetting of Lisa's name.
47. Mr. Aaron's hand holding of Lisa.
48. "What does your being rich have to do with anything?"
49. "well, there's nothing I can do about that"
50. Lisa and her mom's first argument.
51. "it's so trivial. It doesn't matter"
52. "it's beautiful!" "sh!"
53. The whole sex scene.
54. Who's playing the music?
55. "I don't actually feel like talking right now"
56. Lonergan's ability to physically block scenes in their most naturalistic and awkward way.
57. "okay, that's in the kitchen"
58. "I'm good at drawing"
59. "I usually get nervous because I can't help the way I feel"
60. Lisa apologizing to Paul when he definitely should be begging her forgiveness.
62. The eye-roll-inducing hugging and crying at rehearsal.
63. The swearing by the play director to seem young and cool.
64. The hug that lasts just a little too long.
65. Angie just being the fucking worst in every situation.
66. Paul's attempt at ironically subverting the hugging and crying being just as awkward and terrible as the hugging and crying.
67. Story threads are picked up and dropped at random.
68. Lisa's first phone call to Abigail.
69 . Many of the characters are not wrong, they just have such an irritating way of saying it that it becomes difficult to sympathize with them.
70. Not every time a grown-up lectures to Lisa are they saying something wise or interesting or even correct.
71. "Another Hundred People" from Company
72. Gerald's life being in total shambles.
73. The conversation between Lisa, her dad, and his girlfriend.
74. Lisa's confrontation of Gerald.
75. Gerald's wife's refusal to leave.
76. "can I use your bathroom?"
77. Gerald being one of only two characters that Lonergan genuinely feels anger towards.
78. When characters start listing examples, the examples are random and flurried and not always in logical order or equally relevant.
79. Emily being totally strident.
80. Lisa not knowing how to pronounce 'bravura'
81. The Manly Hopkins poem from which the film gets its title.
82. Lisa's slurring and mumbling like most teenagers.
83. The police officer being the second the two characters who Lonergan fucking hates.
85. Characters assuming the worst in each other.
86. Some of the teachers get called by their first names.
87. Lisa, Mr. Aaron, and the bike
88. Lisa's fake seductress performance.
89. Lonergan's remarkable control of his actors.
90. "it's not like I'm a virgin"
91. Joan breaking down in the elevator before somebody else boards who recognizes her, forcing her to perform her daily life at her most vulnerable.
92. The King Lear scene (Mike D'Angelo has a great essay on this scene)
93. Lisa's last call to the detective.
94. "not to white people"
95. Every scene goes from point A to point B. It's not just a random hodgepodge, the film had construction galore.
96. Monica and Abigail's relationship.
97. Characters often feeling an overwhelming need to explain themselves, and then doing it badly.
98. "okay so ground zero and then we'll meet you guys at the theatre"
99. The strident scene — which I have written two essays on and could write a dozen more.
100. Is the story Lisa's or somebody else's? I used to think that this movie took Lisa to task, but really as I grew to appreciate how sympathetic this film is to her, I begin to wonder if maybe this story can both be hers and her attempting to perform her life is a negative outcome. I love when writers don't force you to have a perspective on a character.
101. "anyways it's just sex" *double bolt*
102. The film respects teenagers.
103. "How do you mean, Ramon?
104. "the Jewish response"
105. Lonergan's own character, which is ambivalent to the point of almost being obfuscated. Tells us some key information about how he feels towards himself.
106. Ramon's son
107. "he finally met a woman he could really connect with"
108. Life is about many people, but that doesn't mean that your story is somehow irrelevant, because it's the only one you've got.
109. The film is unpreachy about its acceptance of abortion. It's not proud of itself for being correct about the issue, it just is.
110. "because I killed her"
111. "hey, did you guys know I had an abortion last week?"
112. Though this film appears to dismiss the arts for much of its length, the revelation of the power of art comes from Les Contes d'Hoffmann's ability to heal. Difference between the perspectives of characters and the writer.
113. The final shot
114. The title
115. The fact that this movie is extraordinary in so many ways.