Woodsman, The (USA/87 min.)


directed by:
Nicole Kassell
starring: Kevin Bacon; Kyra Sedgwick; Eve; Mos Def

The Woodsman
 
Bruce says: "The subject of THE WOODSMAN is child abuse. In this emotionally difficult film Kevin Bacon plays Walter, a parolee who has recently exited prison. He is noticing that the world looks a lot younger. That may not be a good point of view since his new apartment is directly across from a local grade school. 320 feet, door to gate according to his measurements. Walter notices there is a man who comes by the school daily and talks to some of the little boys and offers them candy. He is both horrified and fascinated, seeing himself from afar.

"Walter is given a job at a lumber works where he meets a tough girl named Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick) who he thinks must be a dyke. Vickie befriends him and before long they end up in bed. After sex he says to her 'So you're not a dyke.' 'Not tonight,' she replies. Vickie suspects that Walter is harboring a dark secret. She wants to know what it is. When he asks her what the worst thing she ever did was, Vickie replies 'fucked my best friend's husband.' When she asks the question in return, Walter is honest and tells her that he was sent away for molesting girls age 10-12. Vickie is so revolted she bolts out the door. Ironically, she drives by a giant 'Save the Children' wall mural later in the film.

"Walter's psychiatrist thinks he should keep a journal; Walter is not so keen on documenting his thoughts and does so reluctantly. A local police sergeant (Mos Def) drops by and hounds him needlessly. Sgt. Lucas doesn't know why society lets child molesters out on the street. In his view it means they only have to be caught one more time. Sgt. Lucas talks a lot about The Woodsman in little red riding hood who cuts open the wolf and saves the children. The sergeant appears every bit as much the sociopath as the man on whom he is keeping tabs.

"Should child mol esters get a second chance? According to current thinking, no. We tag them, track them and allow them to be publicly humiliated. We do things to them we would not consider doing to a paroled murderer or rapist. The thought of such a crime creates rage and fear. But what about those convicted of such charges that weren't really guilty in the first place or where convicted because they had the urges but never really acted upon them. There is no such middle ground and certainly no forgiveness.

"Kevin Bacon brilliantly underplays his character which although not innocent of all charges is certainly not the monster many would have him be. Or is he? He begins to notice a pre-teen girl on the bus as he rides home from work. He follows her to a park and strikes up a conversation. This could be exactly why society is so worried. Through his therapy and his contact with the outside world Walter is forced to confront himself and settle the issue of whether he should be allowed back on the streets.

"Kyra Sedgwick is very good as the tough girl who cares more than those sensitive types. Mos Def is absolutely believable and creepy as the sergeant. THE WOODSMAN is this year's MYSTIC RIVER, another tale of damaged goods. In spite of the superb acting THE WOODSMAN is not particularly cinematic. The storytelling is straightforward and is one step beyond filming the play from which it was adapted. As in MONSTER, the acting carries the show. 4 cats"

 

Peg says: "This is a new film starring Kevin Bacon as a pedophile newly released from prison. Adapted from the stage play by Stephen Fechter, the screenplay was co-written by Fechter and director Nicole Kassell. Also in the cast: David Alan Grier as the owner of a lumberyard who reluctantly hires Walter (Bacon) to work there; Bacon was previously a talented fruniture builder. Kyra Sedgwick plays a co-worker who seduces then befriends Walter; Benjamin Bratt is his brother-in-law and the only apparent person from his past still willing to have contact with him. Mos Def has a sharp turn as his mildy-sadistic parole officer.

"Pedophilia is no easy story topic, and this script shies from both extreme demonization or feel-good moralization. 2001's L.I.E. featured Scottish actor Brian Cox as a gruff but sweet New Yorker who just happened to have a taste for young boys: a powerful and surprisingly non-judgmental film which catapulted the career of first-time actor Paul Franklin Dano (who these days has dropped the middle name and will be starring as Jason Baldwin real-life convicted murderer in the forthcoming fiction film about the West Memphis Three).

"THE WOODSMAN is gorgeously directed and photographed--extremely visual for a stage adaptation. The mise en scene is lushly but subtly executed, and rather than a close-up on a character's face to express the emotion of the moment, we get with a slow-mo scattering of autmn leaves on a playground, or the spectre of a huge yellow schoolbus turning a corner. Shot in cool blues and greys, startling splashes of red amid cool green exteriors make for unforgettable visuals. The 'Little Red Riding Hood' motif hinted at in the title is not only expressed verbally but visually, and predictable though it may seem, the theme is conveyed with artful restraint. The unobtrusive but effective soundtrack also lends power to this intelligent and sure-to-be controversial film.

But the heart of this fine film is Kevin Bacon's performance. As Walter, Bacon unfolds as a man of unexpected integrity, whose anger, sadness, regret and hyper-self-awareness cannot ever be purged, only slowly battered and deflated. Yet his redemption, when it comes, is as plausible as his low-grade despair. From every small hand gesture and stolid facial expression, to his smoldering conflicted inner world, this stunning portrayal from Bacon demonstrates why some cinephiles regard him as one of our finest living film actors. If he is not showered with accolades for this performance, then there is no God." 5 cats

 
Bob G. says: "Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick give brilliantly understated performances in one of the only films I have ever seen that effectively addresses the disease of pedophilia without gloss or pandering. Bacon invests his struggling addict with such quiet intensity, incidents that might have sparked little reaction under ordinary circumstances take on vivid criticality. Cassell's film adaptation of the stage play is superbly low-key and nicely grainy, bathed in the deceptive comfort of soft blues and greens. Eve and Mos Def continue to impress with each 'serious' role they're given, and Benjamin Bratt is also breaking out of the pretty boy pigeonhole. A fine effort all around. 4 1/2 cats"
 
Michael says" Nicole Kassell’s THE WOODSMAN is a good movie. Not perfect, but good. There are some strong performances, some great writing, some smart editing and several nice directorial choices. There are also a couple of awkward performances and writing. The screenplay is credited to Stephen Fechter and Nicole Kassell on imdb.com, yet I’m 99% sure I saw that it was adapted from a play during the opening credits. I have just verified in an article on MSNBC that THE WOODSMAN was 'directed by first-time filmmaker Nicole Kassell, adapted from a stage play by Steven Fechter.' I think THE WOODSMAN would actually work better as a play. Some of the dialogue is very representational and comes out a little awkwardly, or conveniently for a film with such a realistic feel.

"Kevin Bacon plays Walter, released from prison on parole after 12 years serving time for molesting little girls. He gets a job at a lumber yard, an apartment (across the street from an elementary school) and becomes involved with a co-worker named Vickie (played by real life wife, Kyra Sedgwick). What THE WOOSDMAN does extraordinarily well is let the viewer feel what it must be like to be in Walter’s situation. We are drawn in to his frustration, his anger, his terror, his longing. It’s not an easy ride, and it’s not a ride many of us take in our lives. Kassell and Bacon team to really draw the viewer in and give him or her some real understanding and awareness. THE WOODSMAN also features strong supporting performances by Sedgwick, and surprisingly, from rapper Eve, as Mary Kay, the busybody secretary at the lumber yard.

"Unfortunately, Mos Def flounders a bit as the police officer assigned to keep an eye on Walter, and Benjamin Bratt, as Walter’s estranged sister’s husband, seems just a little too earnest in his role. And as I mentioned before, while I think the stageplay probably worked pretty effectively in its original form, a couple of scenes translated a bit clumsily, particularly a pivotal scene in the park which is incredibly intense and difficult to watch, but through the dialogue, pulled me out of the realism of the rest of the film and dropped me into a performance. And while I thought Hannah Pilkes, the young actress who plays Hannah in that scene, did a remarkable job, the dialogue was just a little too leading.

"Also, this film would have you believe that all men are child molesters. We hear of or neet six male characters in THE WOODSMAN who have sexual relations of some sort with underage children.

"While THE WOODSMAN emerges a pretty mixed-bag for me, it’s still well-worth seeing. 3 ½ cats"

 
Chris says: "I never really paid much attention to Kevin Bacon until I finally saw DINER for the first time a few years ago. I was suitably impressed--his character was passionate, funny, tortured and ultimately tragic, not like death but of someone who just doesn't recognize his own potential. In real life, you could say that Mickey Rourke's career followed that path rather than Bacon's, but until this decade, the latter's claim to fame was arguably a party game based on his ubiquity rather than his value as an actor or a marquee name.

"Although I initially praised Tim Robbins for his transformative role in MYSTIC RIVER, I now think Bacon gave that film's key performance--certainly subtler, more restrained and internal than Robbins or fellow overacting Oscar winner Sean Penn. And now, Bacon flexes his chops in THE WOODSMAN, a disturbing little film about Walter, a man adjusting to life following a twelve year prison sentence. We don't find out the nature of his crime until halfway through the film, and even though every bit of press emphasizes it, I've decided not to mention it here, either, for those few of you who haven't heard what it is. I went into the film knowing why Walter was imprisoned, and I think I would've appreciated it more had I been kept in the dark (in the same way that John Cassavetes' final film, LOVE STREAMS, is far more interesting if you don't know the relationship between his and Gena Rowland's characters going into the film).

"So, THE WOODSMAN is about guilt, making bad choices, learning to live with an affliction and understanding how it affects the people you choose to surround yourself with. Although I found some of the film's set-ups a tad implausible (and you might too, for crushingly obvious reasons), I never thought Walter himself was an unrealistic figure. Bacon could have played him as a saint or a monster, but instead, he comes off unexpectedly sympathetic, even when we don't fully comprehend his motivations or desires. Kyra Sedgwick is also good as the person who doesn't necessarily provide Walter with his redemption, but at least guides him towards it. The rest of the cast is uneven: rapper Eve gracefully does what she can with a cipher role, but as a detective checking up on Walter, I couldn't tell whether Mos Def was supposed to be misguided, evil or just stoned.

"Fortunately, Bacon is right up there with Paul Giamatti regarding this year's best lead actor: nuanced and controlled, he also exudes as much presence as the film's working-class Philadelphia neighborhoods. 4 cats"
 
Diane says: "I've just read the other reviews, so will put in my two cents. Bacon certainly gives a five-star nuanced perf here, and Mos Def is noteworthy. Some reviewers have written of Walter's 'redemption,' but I do not see any. Walter's realization that he is hurting his victims is only another humanizing aspect of this story, but does not bring closure. As much as I want to respect the privacy and dignity of any criminal, society still needs a way to prevent recidivism, particularly with crimes that have psychological origins. Definitely pulls up conflicting feelings. A few points off for the Hollywood feel. 3 cats."
 
Bob Gaydos says: "Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick give brilliantly understated performances in one of the only films I have ever seen that effectively addresses the disease of pedophilia without gloss or pandering. Bacon invests his struggling addict with such quiet intensity, incidents that might have sparked little reaction under ordinary circumstances take on vivid criticality. Cassell's film adaptation of the stage play is superbly low-key and nicely grainy, bathed in the deceptive comfort of soft blues and greens. Eve and Mos Def continue to impress with each "serious" role they're given, and Benjamin Bratt is also breaking out of the pretty boy pigeonhole. A fine effort all around. 4 1/2 cats.