24 January 2009

Catch a rising 'Snow Angel'

Remember when I couldn't wait to see Snow Angels, and then it came out and . . . nothing. Probably not but it happened.

Anyway, I FINALLY got around to seeing it, and I'm glad to say it wasn't a disappointment. David Gordon Green is one of my favorite filmmakers, and in Snow Angels he once again crafts an interestingly composed and captivating tale of small town America.

The film also boasts a pretty impressive cast. Sam Rockwell gives one of the best male performances of the year, Kate Beckinsale proves that she has some chops when given the right material and creative team, and Amy Sedaris pops up unexpectedly in a great little turn. However, this post is in tribute to the sweet young romance in the film between Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby that gives it a certain amount of affection to off set what is otherwise a pretty downbeat movie.

I realize I'm pretty late in the game in proclaiming Olivia Thirlby a rising star. Ever since appearing in Paul Greengrass' United 93, Thirlby has been working pretty steadily in independent cinema. Last year she gained a certain amount of recognizability as the 'honest to blog' best friend of Juno, and earlier this year she broke Josh Peck's heart in the early '90s in The Wackness. In Snow Angels , Thirlby is almost 180 degrees removed from the over confident side characters she played in those films. Her Lila IS confident, yes, but she's also a quieter, sweeter girl. Whereas her sexual veracity in The Wackness is a point of humor, the sexual encounters between her and Michael Angarano are those of a less experienced couple: akward, maybe a little bit goofy, and caring.

Michael Angarano is still mostly identified for his role as Jack's son with Rosie O'Donnell on Will & Grace. After also starring as the younger version of the main character in Almost Famous, Angarano landed the job that saw him on one of the top rated sitcoms of its time. Since then, he's been making his mark in supporting turns in more independent films like Dear Wendy and The Lords of Dogtown to varying degrees of success. He's also headlined a few mainstream films (2005's Sky High and last year's Jackie Chan-Jet Li face off The Forbidden Kingdom). In Snow Angels, Angarano probably has his most mature role to date, and he more than holds his own. It takes two to tango and the inherent sweetness of the relationship between his character and Thirlby is delicately handled by all involved, including Angarano himself. His Arthur isn't the most confident kid, but he's happy if a little unsettled by troubles at home. His character is the one who discovers something upon which the rest of the film's plot revolves.

A quick look at their IMDB pages reveals that neither is straying too far from where they've been before-Thirlby has a number of indies in the pipeline including the eternally troubled Margaret, and Angarano is working with Napoleon Dynamite's Jared Hess in what is presumably a more goofy, slapstick comedy-but it's hard to say until these films come out. Nevertheless, one hopes that the promise they showed in Snow Angels is indicative of strong turns in the future.

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