Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Take Shelter" (2011)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#13

Take Shelter

I know I have talked about my fears before, and I am going to lay down another. One thing I am very afraid of is completely loosing my mind. Turning into a yelling lunatic, perhaps out in public, embarrassing my family and friends, it all sounds terrible. I am sure many of you out there have the very same fear. The thought of my brain slowly and surely deteriorating is horrifically sad.

"Take Shelter" centers around Curtis (played to absolute perfection by Michael Shannon), a blue collar worker who is struggling to make ends meet with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain in one of her very first roles). They have a young daughter who is deaf, and Curtis and Samantha's earnings are very thin. But still despite the struggles they are a happy family.

Until daddy begins to have vivid, apocalyptic nightmares. Nightmares that get progressively worse.

Curtis begins purchasing top-of-the-line shelter parts, stocks up on food, even purchases a German Shepherd to protect his daughter. Most of this is done without the knowledge of Samantha. Which leads to arguments, lots and lots of arguments. Even Curtis' best friend Dewart (Shea Whigham) even begins to turn against him. Curtis is stern about continuing to improve his old bomb shelter, because the nightmares are becoming unbearable. The whole movie we are asking ourselves, is Curtis a fortune teller or is he a crazy person. We learn later in the film that his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The whole film we are wondering if Curtis' visions are on the horizon or not at all. 

One could give "Take Shelter" a pass based on it being repetitive. And it sort of is, there is a bit of a cycle the film adopts. Curtis has a bad vision, he makes preparations, people get mad, Curtis has another bad vision, he makes preparations, people get mad. What holds the film together are the wonderful performances. Michael Shannon has proved over his career that he can do anything. He was comic relief in "Pearl Harbor" and "Bad Boys II", he got serious in "8 Mile" and "Vanilla Sky", he got zany in "The Runaways" and "Premium Rush." Heck, check him out in "Man of Steel," Shannon possesses incredible range, and his work in "Take Shelter" is a high watermark in his career. He should have been nominated for Lead Actor in 2012's Oscars and that's a fact. Jessica Chastain is proving she is a true talent and an instant icon in this business. Shea Whigham is an actor whose name isn't as popular as his face, and he turns out another great supporting performance. Even Katy Mixon who plays Whigham's wife plays up the sassy and the gossip very well with her character.

And the dream sequences...oy! They were more effective than I thought they'd be. There are many moments where "Take Shelter" is going to make you jump, jolt you out of your seat. There is a lot that is unexpected in this picture, which only adds to "Take Shelter"s long lasting flavor. The script written by Jeff Nichols is earnest and impeccable. We really get to know the characters we are watching, this film isn't the case of crazy guy ranting. Character development is crucial in this film and that is a delight.

Another reason why "Take Shelter" is so effective is because of what I was talking about in the first paragraph. The film successfully taps into the fear of losing your mind. It does it in such a startling and sophisticated way that I wanted to get up and applaud. Yet, it features an ending which I feel will leave audiences right down the middle of love and hate. All I know is that this film certainly worked for me. I think it is definitely worth checking out.

"Take Shelter" is among the very best films of the last ten years. A film that flew under the radar but got under my skin. I hope you all give this one a chance!

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