Directed by Charles Oliver. Starring Minnie Driver, Jeremy Renner, Bobby Coleman, David Denman. (2008, R, 99 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 15, 2008
The intentions of writer-director Oliver seem pure, and the performances (especially that of Driver) cannot be faulted. Nevertheless, Take is a dreadfully misguided movie whose story of redemption is utterly irredeemable. The drama occurs in a hodgepodge fashion over the course of two days, one occurring in the past and the other in the present. Years ago, the paths of Ana (Driver) and her son Jesse (Coleman) crossed with that of Saul (Renner), a desperate gambling addict. The interaction among these strangers ends with Jesse's death (believe me, this isn't a spoiler; Jesse's demise is foreshadowed heavily and comes as no surprise). In the present, Ana is driving through the desert to a penitentiary in order to witness Saul's execution. She has grown quite severe and understandably dour in the interim; her only purpose in life is to make sure that Saul suffers eternally for her loss. Ana's demeanor is grim and friendless, and sometimes that's the only feature that distinguishes the past from the present. The time periods shift back and forth without rhyme or reason, and it's impossible to discern whether we're witnessing flash-forwards, flashbacks, or plainly incompetent filmmaking. Added to this is the needless complexity of certain images which frame portions of objects or actions in extreme foreground while the story's relevant action happens in the distant background. Not only are many of the shots confusing, they also frequently look flat and dingy and are accompanied by a music score that vacillates between the diddly and portentous. Various story strands lead the viewer down purposeless avenues, as we learn that Jesse is being forced into special-education classes and that Ana's already bare-bones economic survival mechanisms have been stretched beyond their limits. None of these side stories matters a bit once we learn in an explanatory note at the conclusion of Take the real reason for the movie's existence. It reads, "Restorative Justice is a worldwide effort that encourages victims and offenders to meet. The program forces offenders to give a face to their crime, to feel remorse, and to understand the true repercussions of their actions." It's a pity Take couldn't find a way to convey this idea without literally spelling it out, finally, before we leave the theatre.