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1 review, 14 user ratings

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Snow Cake
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by Jay Seaver

"Snow sparkles a little, but the shoveling's a bit rough."
3 stars

Alan Rickman is an underappreciated treasure. It sounds like an odd thing to say, because he's been a quite memorable part of some huge hits, but movies where he's the feature attraction appear and disappear quickly and quietly (if they do that; ask this site's Jason Whyte about the distribution of "The Search for John Gissing" sometime). "Snow Cake" isn't that great a movie, but you'd think Rickman and Sigourney Weaver would at least draw some notice.

Rickman plays Alex Hughes, just out of jail and just arrived in northern Ontario, aiming to drive to Winnipeg to meet an old friend. On the way, he meets Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a young wannabe writer looking for a ride to Wawa. The chatty Vivienne eventually gets under the taciturn Alex's skin, and just as they're arriving in town, a semi plows into the rental car. Afterward, a dazed Alex feels the need to visit Vivienne's mother Linda (Sigourney Weaver), only to find that she's a high-functioning autistic who depends on Vivienne for many everyday difficulties. He agrees to stay long enough to take out the garbage on Tuesday, but it's not all bad; Linda's neighbor Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss) seems pretty nice.

Rickman is excellent. As always, his deep voice with a bit of a sneer just drips sarcasm when it's called for, but that's not all he's called on to do. His bafflement at Linda's behavior is something we share, and it evolves to acceptance without ever losing track of how difficult Linda can be. There's a lot of guilt wrapped up in the character, but Rickman doesn't simply spend the movie hunched over in self-pity. Underneath Alex's brusque exterior is a caring person, and Rickman knows how to play guilty without being paralyzed.

He does this opposite Sigourney Weaver, whose performance as Linda is the kind that can drive a viewer nuts. Like a lot of portrayals of mentally handicapped people, it's constructed out of a lot of obsessions and odd behaviors, and they're laid on so thick that Linda often seems to be nothing more than what makes her strange. I kept grasping for some sort of base personality and finding it elusive. Perhaps that's the point - that someone like Linda is always going to register as strange and off-putting first, and that it takes work to see her as human - work that someone in a movie audience isn't used to putting in.

The rest of the cast is fine. Carrie-Anne Moss is a good counterpart to Linda, providing the direct and straightforward response to Alex that Weaver's character can't. Emily Hampshire's screen time is concentrated in the beginning, and she does a good job of portraying someone the audience can like after the fact, even if we do share Alex's irritation while she's an active participant. Canadian production fixture Callum Keith Rennie brings sympathy to the truck driver who hit's Alex's car, while David Fox and Jayne Eastwood are good as Linda's parents.

There just really doesn't seem to be almost two hours worth of movie in these characters, though. Linda, of course, is not going to change; the point of these stories is that she can't be anything other than what she is and the rest of the world must deal with that. So the bulk of the film is spent showing that Alex is a good person for doing so, while the patronizing people he and Linda encounter aren't quite so fine. There's also an obnoxious cop warning Maggie away from Alex which highlights just how perfectly parallel his situation now is to the one which landed him in jail. Angela Pell's script gives Rickman and company a lot of chances to tell us things, and I imagine the actors enjoyed reading it, but director Marc Evans doesn't do much to get the audience actively involved after the initial jolt.

"Snow Cake" has a lot of little moments that work, but they don't add up to much. All the soul-baring, snow, and twitches make for plenty of exposition but just incremental progression.

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originally posted: 06/05/07 00:43:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2007 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/08 Charles Tatum One of the best films of the year 5 stars
6/15/07 William Goss Delicate drama is familiar, yet tender nonetheless. 3 stars
5/16/07 Elizabeth Wonderful! 5 stars
12/03/06 kathryn this movie is wonderful ! very brilliant I love it! 5 stars
11/15/06 Louise Well-acted, atmospheric, emotional and unusual. 4 stars
10/19/06 Agent69 Beautiful movie. Brave enough to make you laugh. Both Sigourney and Alan gave Oscar worthy 5 stars
10/11/06 Keko Sigourny was brilliant! 5 stars
10/03/06 lee77477 very well done loved it you need to see it 5 stars
9/21/06 lucy benson Predictable and fluffy. Sigourney just doesnt get away from being 'sigourney'. 3 stars
9/17/06 Rawden Addams Brilliant movie!! 5 stars
8/18/06 Lewis Waldron Badly written, amateurishly directed; valiant acting can't save this from the cutout bin 2 stars
5/08/06 John Higgins Deeply moving film about redemption, understanding, &, in its own way, mercy & forgiveness. 5 stars
5/08/06 Becky Benson This movie is Wonderful Alan Rickman is excellent in this film 5 stars
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  27-Apr-2007 (NR)
  DVD: 11-Sep-2007

  08-Sep-2006 (15)


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