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Overall Rating
3.78

Awesome: 20.99%
Worth A Look44.44%
Average: 25.93%
Pretty Bad: 8.64%
Total Crap: 0%

9 reviews, 27 user ratings


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Woodsman, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?"
3 stars

There’s a couple of accomplished scenes in the American independent feature The Woodsman that mark first-timer Nicole Kassell as a director to watch.

In one, Walter (Kevin Bacon) responds to questioning from his state-assigned therapist. He talks, with tears welling in his eyes, about the pleasure he received from smelling his younger sister’s hair when he was six. In the film’s tensest scene, Walter stares down temptation in the form of an 11 year-old girl (Hannah Pilkes) who is bird watching on a park bench.

Walter is on supervised parole after spending 12 years in prison for “molesting little girls” between the ages of 10 and 12. Ironically, his sparse apartment looks onto the playground of the local grade school. This isn’t Walter’s choice – he’s trying to stay out of trouble’s way – but no other landlord would take him. His brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt) is the only family member who’ll speak to him, and he keeps to himself at his new job at the lumberyard. Walter’s encounter with two contrasting people sees the start of change in his life. Tough-as-nails forklift driver Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick) invites herself into his bed, and Sergeant Lucas (Mos Def) starts harassing him at his home.

Kassell co-wrote The Woodsman with Steven Fechter, based on his play. Walter’s apartment must have been the main set on stage, because advancement of the plot frequently relies on someone knocking at Walter’s door. Bacon executive produced and his understated performance is the centrepiece of the film.

Thin-lipped and unsmiling, with clenched jaw and hands permanently in pockets, he keeps his eyes averted when he walks the streets. Walter doesn’t look at home anywhere, least of all in his bland apartment. “When will I be normal?” he demands of his therapist in deep, gravelled tones. It’s a twitchy, buttoned-down performance, and I initially feared the worst – that The Woodsman would take sober glee in punishing its audience with a monotonously heavy approach to a difficult issue.

Instead, the film is low-key rather than downbeat. Thankfully, there is sufficient variation in Bacon’s features to preclude a one-note performance – we witness clearly how Walter is transformed by the people he encounters. Benjamin Bratt seemed too starry to be playing Walter’s brother-in-law, but there’s fine naturalistic support from Sedgwick (Bacon’s real-life partner), Def and Eve as a secretary at the lumberyard.

The title comes from Little Red Riding Hood and some blatantly obvious symbolism comes close to spoiling the delicacy of the afore-mentioned park scene. You may find elements of The Woodsman confronting or disturbing. Ultimately, Kassell is telling a simple human story that prompts you to look into the eyes of a person that society would rather see locked away forever.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8537&reviewer=104
originally posted: 06/16/04 12:00:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/24/07 smrtpants so significant, see also: "mysterious skin" 5 stars
1/03/07 Anthony Best husband/wife/actor film out there! 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Bacon - as ever - is simply tremendous. That scene on the bench.Ooof..... 4 stars
5/23/06 Agent Sands A movie written and directed with remarkable compassion. 4 stars
5/06/06 tatum The whole cast and direction are a revelation 5 stars
3/09/06 Suzz it's all about Bacon's sensitive, nuanced performance 4 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Really engaging, creatively written. Great cast. 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Bacon's best performance. Mos def's best performance. Bratt's best performance. Nuff said. 4 stars
10/27/05 shannon Insightful 4 stars
9/16/05 Laura Lee Macleod I think the script and ending was unreal but top marks to Kevin Bacon for an awesome perfor 4 stars
8/26/05 Jenny Walker It was a hard movie to watch but the acting was woth it. 5 stars
7/18/05 Brandy Harrington Finally, someone makes a good movie in the 21st century. 5 stars
6/23/05 sally angwin probably the most sensitive scrip for this topic 5 stars
6/20/05 Charlene Javier Kevin Bacon was robbed! 4 stars
6/14/05 Jackie Remarkable, Brave, and daring 5 stars
5/29/05 DM Hard to watch, but excellent acting and a bold choice of subject matter. 4 stars
5/19/05 wjrogers it was ok 3 stars
4/19/05 Danny I like Kevin Bacon, but I found this very tiresome and hard to get through. 3 stars
3/14/05 albert SECOND BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR,AFTER MILLION DOLLAR BABY 5 stars
3/04/05 ALBERT GREAT ACTING BY MR. BACON 5 stars
3/03/05 michael weber urgh..........urgh 4 stars
1/07/05 olala little bored 3 stars
9/20/04 denny nice: didn't attempt to make him any thing more than a man trying to live with his "disease 4 stars
8/26/04 sarah knoxville i loved it 5 stars
8/07/04 Brandy Felder a fine piece of contrived art 2 stars
7/02/04 jeffrey Tuff subject material excellant acting Go See it! 4 stars
2/09/04 Brad nice 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 12-Apr-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-May-2005


Directed by
  Nicole Kassell

Written by
  Nicole Kassell
  Steven Fechter

Cast
  Kevin Bacon
  Kyra Sedgwick
  Benjamin Bratt
  Mos Def
  Eve
  David Alan Grier



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