01 May 2012

Movies: Hearts in Atlantis

Hearts in Atlantis (2001) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252501/


After the death of his best childhood friend Sully, Bobby Garfield returns to his home town, breaks in to his boarded-up old house and reminisces about the year he turned 11 years old, way back in what looks like the early 60s.  11-year old Bobby lives with his widowed mother and she earns just enough to pay rent, buy food, give him a free library card for his birthday and keep her closet full of nice expensive dresses to wear to work and impress her boss. A mysterious elderly man named Ted moves in upstairs and hires Bobby to read the newspaper to him. Ted warns Bobby about the 'low men' that might show up to town to take Ted away and asks him to keep an eye out for them.

There is a bit more goings-on that border of the supernatural sort but I'd rather not spoil things for those who haven't seen the film.

Stars Anthony Hopkins as Ted, David Morse as older Bobby and Anton Yelchin as young Bobby.  I thought I recognized Yelchin, turns out he was Chekov in the "Star Trek" reboot film. He was also Charley Brewster in the "Fright Night" remake, a connection I never drew before looking him up just now.

The reason I watched the film was I saw that Anthony Hopkins was in it and it was based on a Stephen King novella. Good enough for me. Unfortunately that set my expectations higher than they should have been, apparently. For me anyway, my wife really liked the film.

What I saw was just another adaptation of a Stephen King coming-of-age story to film. The film bookended the story with a reminiscing adult voiceover just like the awesome "Stand By Me" did, only less effectively IMO. Once I was reminded of "Stand By Me" from the get-go my viewing experience was doomed. Like other Stephen King coming-of-age stories it had its bully picking on the little trio of kids (Bobby, his best girl and first kiss Carol, and Sully), a showdown with said bully, parental relationship issues for Bobby involving the memory of his dead father and living mother, Bobby longingly looking at the better life his friends have compared to his, Bobby having to grow up fast to handle plot circumstances, other go-to things that are a common thing among Stephen King stories.

The locations, sets, set dressing, costuming, soundtrack choices (familiar late 50's early 60's songs) did a great job placing us in the right era. Technical aspects like direction and camera work were good too.  Hopkins and Morse are both solid performers and delivered as expected. Young Mika Boorem, who played Carol, did really well in both her roles. I did get annoyed at some of the acting, especially Anton Yelchin. His performance seemed spot-on sometimes, other times just plain oddly delivered. Then I found out that he's originally from St. Petersburg and English is not young Anton's first language, which probably is why his performance bothered me. It didn't seem to bother the real critics, or the wife, so what do I know?

All together my initial expectations and obvious Stephen King story thematic similarities added up to knocking my viewing experience down a few notches. I think my self-inflicted comparison to "Stand By Me" is what did me in. I self-ruined my viewing experience. Whereas the wife didn't seem to suffer from such realizations and enjoyed the film a lot more than I.  Funny thing is, I picked the film, she didn't want to watch it, and by the end she had a much better time than I did.

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