Revenge seems to be floating in the collective consciousness, at least as evidenced by current cinema trends. On the heels of Neil Jordan’s ideologically troublesome vigilante treatise The Brave One comes Terry George’s tale of star-crossed fathers and families in Reservation Road, which introduces in broad strokes a classical vision of the American dream so as to put into starker relief the tragedy when it befalls. Set in an insular Connecticut community, the ridiculously good-looking and as-happy-as-humanly-possible Learners—comprised of Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix), Grace (Jennifer Connelly), and their two children, Josh (Sean Curley) and Emma (Elle Fanning)—are established as the apple-pie ideal; the opening has the family basking giddily in their perfect glory at a waterfront recital where Josh plays the cello with the school orchestra. Meanwhile, a cross-cut to Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) and his son, Lucas (Eddie Alderson), interrupted at a Red Sox game by an irate cell call from ex-wife Ruth (Mira Sorvino), unveils Dwight, naturally, as the fuck-up father. In an alternate cinematic universe, Reservation Road’s physical and emotional clash might’ve given rise to an interesting examination of class—Dwight initially seems a salt-of-the-earth counterpoint to Ethan; but the former’s profession, soon revealed as a pivotal plot point, is as white-collar as they come, and relegates the film to the conventional realm of the Hollywood revenge drama.
Click here to read Kristi Mitsuda's review of Reservation Road.