What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actress, Director, Adapted Screenplay
As with most of the Oscar movies every year, I knew little about the plot of Room. I will admit, there were several moments where I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. However, the power and impact of the movie prevented that from distracting me too much.
Room is the adaptation of a novel by the same name that tells the story of a little boy and his mother’s captivity and eventual escape from the mother’s kidnapper. It is told from Jack’s (Jacob Tremblay) perspective. All he’s ever known is “room” (the shed he and his ma [Brie Larson] are being kept in) and he believes that to be all there is to the world.
The best adapted screenplays happen when the original authors contribute to the adaptation. Emma Donoghue, the original author, retains sole credit for the writing of this movie’s screenplay. Although the pacing felt slightly odd at times (primarily in the second half) and Jack’s narration could have been cut down a bit, the quality of the story remains evident. The movie is shot beautifully. The shots effectively set up scenes so that even if Jack is not narrating, you’re still seeing things through his eyes. They don’t present everything from Jack’s perspective (Ma gets her own touching moments when you get to see her heart), but the weight of the story is held by him.
Which leads me to mention the FANTASTIC performance given by Jacob Tremblay. He was seven when they filmed. He memorized lines and was directed in blocking, but there was some improvisation during filming as well. If I hadn’t read a couple interviews, I would’ve assumed that the entirety of his performance was improv’d – in a good way! He came off naturally and seemed like he wasn’t being coached too much. There were several scenes where he and Brie would carry on a conversation and they would keep the shot focused on him alone. That showcased his ability since there was no clever editing to keep the scene going – he wasn’t just spouting one line at a time. He carried those scenes all on his own.
And then there’s Brie Larson. What a gut punch. That’s the first term that comes to mind. I’d like to talk to any moms who’ve seen this movie and find out how emotional it was for them. It was emotional enough for me just witnessing the events unfold through this story. The emotion came entirely from Brie, even though the story was being told (mostly) from Jacob. When Jack would talk to Ma and she would just look at him, you could feel what was being unsaid. We see Ma protecting Jack from the truth and then adjusting her own thinking to help him cope with reality. She’s brave and self-sacrificing. I find that writing about this movie now, I’m thinking of Ma as a real person.
Both Brie and Jacob clearly benefited from some exceptional direction by Lenny Abrahamson. He chose to shoot the film chronologically (when most movies jump around for production efficiency) in order to accommodate their seven-year old leading actor. Directing a child actor in any role is a task, much less one that takes up so much screen time. Not only did he tackle that momentous task, but he also worked with Donoghue for an extended period of time on the screenplay. And then there’s Brie Larson. Good actors are good actors, but they’re made great with great directors. I have no doubt that Brie contributed a significant amount to the direction of her character. However, Abrahamson brought together a child actor, an untested screenwriter, and a leading actress who is not the main character, into an intriguing and heart-wrenching story that deserves its Best Picture nomination.
Best Picture – I would not be surprised if this one ended up in the top two. I don’t think it will win but I’d be glad to be wrong.
Director – Abrahamson earned his spot in this category, but he has a hard fight against Iñárritu.
Leading Actress – Likely. I’m gonna say likely. Maybe even very likely.
Adapted Screenplay – I’m not sure on this category yet. I need to see a couple more of these movies.