2007, R, 102 min. Directed by Terry George. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino, Elle Fanning, Eddie Alderson, Antoni Corone, Gary Kohn.
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Oct. 26, 2007
In Reservation Road, George’s adaptation of John Burnham Schwartz’s acclaimed novel, Crime and Punishment comes to New England. And not just any New England. This is New England in the fall of 2004, that glorious season when the Boston Red Sox finally broke their 90-year-old curse and won the World Series, throwing the entire region into a booze-filled trance of ecstatic purification. Well, not the entire region. Even in that suddenly magical place there were still a few people left behind to deal with cold reality. One in particular is Dwight Arno (Ruffalo), our accidental Raskolnikov, a lawyer and divorced father living alone in small-town Connecticut who’s on his way home from Fenway Park one night with his 11-year-old son (Alderson) when he hits a young boy and speeds off before anyone can identify his car. The boy dies instantly, sending the youngster's parents (Connelly and Phoenix) into a tailspin of misery, recriminations, and anger. Meanwhile, Arno’s life, already a mess of early-middle-age self-loathing and paralysis, is being crushed by the weight of his guilt and fear and the great pull of fatherly expectation and disappointment. It’s like his beloved Red Sox dropped the Babe’s curse on him when they were done with it and then left him alone with his cowardice. Everywhere he looks there’s another convenient reminder of his crime: His ex-wife (Sorvino) turns out to be the dead boy’s former music teacher; the boy's father unknowingly shows up at his office looking for legal advice. Normally these sorts of coincidences and narrative conceits would be enough to bury a movie, but with a cast as good as this one, you’re willing to look past the occasional glaring improbability. Connelly, in particular, soars as the nail-biting mother trying desperately to put on a brave face and keep her family together, while Ruffalo and Phoenix, two of Hollywood’s best brooders, are excellent as wounded young fathers failing to respond to sudden tragedy with anything resembling maturity or morality. Their scenes together are dances of mumbled desperation, played to perfection by two notorious introverts fumbling their way toward redemption, while all around them New England’s sins are being washed away, inning by inning and game by game.