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Greetings again from the darkness. There is a fine line between getting
chewed out by your Costco supervisor one day and having the country
claim you as a hero the next. Just ask Jeff Bauman. On April 15, 2013
Jeff was near the finish line for the Boston Marathon, holding a
handmade sign in support of his runner-girlfriend Erin. When she was
still about a mile away, the two bombs went off, killing three people
and injuring hundreds. Mr. Bauman lost his legs that day.
When Jeff regained consciousness in the hospital (after two surgeries), he was able to provide the FBI a detailed physical description of one of the bombers. His information led directly to the identification of one of the scumbag brothers responsible for this atrocity. Immediately, Jeff was hailed as a hero both locally and nationally. The film does a nice job of telling Jeff's story and how his life unfolded over the next few months.
Director David Gordon Green is responsible for such disparate film projects as OUR BRAND IS CRISIS, MANGLEHORN, and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. He may seem an odd choice to adapt the film from the book by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter (screenplay by John Pollono), but the story is so moving and heart-warming, and the three lead actors are so good that we immediately connect with each of them.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff, Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black") plays Erin, and Miranda Richardson tears up the screen as Jeff's mother, Patty. Mr. Gyllenhaal is remarkable (as usual) as the working class local boy who truly believes his lucky seat and beer determine success or failure for his beloved Bruins and Red Sox. His initial portrayal is spot on for the normal guy who seems caught in the web of eternal teenage mentality so common in the male species. As he struggles with his new life challenges, he strives to do better, but simply doesn't understand why he is viewed as a hero and doesn't particularly embrace what comes with the label, at least early on. Ms. Maslany is terrific as the guilt-ridden, confused-yet-strong, on-again-off- again girlfriend to Jeff. She fights through being treated as an outsider by the family, and the daily grind of caring for a guy who needs constant help. The twice Oscar nominated Miranda Richardson is unlike we have ever seen her on screen. Despite being a Brit, Ms. Richardson captures the Boston sauciness (in more ways than one) and takes no 'stuff' from anyone. Her performance is stunning.
Of course, at its core, this is an inspirational story about how a normal guy became a hero after a tragic event. The recent Mark Wahlberg film PATRIOTS DAY focused on the aftermath and investigation, while here the attention is on the emotional story of one man and one family. We see the recreation of the flag-waving at the Boston Bruins game, and the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park. We also see the obstacles faced when rehabilitation and care- giving becomes too much to bear. Carlos Arredondo and his cowboy hat and heroics are also given much-deserved space here. His back story is heart-breaking, and a reminder that everyone has a story, and each of us can be a hero in some way. Since life isn't a movie, the realities are that Jeff and Erin have since divorced, but that in no way reduces the impact of their touching story that inspires each of us to be stronger.
It's unfair to compare Stronger to Patriots Day, since they are
entirely different features, but they will inevitably be pitted against
each other in terms of quality. Luckily, both films are fantastic and
present two completely different sides of the story, therefore both are
worthy of being made. I was certainly moved to tears more than once in
Patriots Day, but there's something truly special about Stronger. Quiet
but powerful, Stronger keeps its focus on one unbelievable story
without forgetting the importance of everyone banning together in
Boston following the terrorist attack at the 2013 marathon.
It all starts with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany's chemistry together as Jeff Bauman and Erin Hurley, a couple severely impacted by the bombing. Jeff, learning how to walk again after having his legs blown off, became a symbol of hope for the city of Boston, and quite frankly still is. Where Patriots Day focused solely on the bombing and bombers, Stronger keeps its focus on what an event like this can do to an already trying relationship. Their relationship is the heart and soul of the film, and Maslany and Gyllenhaal do a phenomenal job of making their chemistry feel real and grounded with earned emotion. I can't tell you how many times I felt overwhelmed with emotion just watching these actors work through their scenes together.
The entire film is grounded with that emotion, though. And several performances are worthy of Oscar nominations. I personally think Gyllenhaal and Maslany should be locks, but Miranda Richardson made a strong case for the supporting category playing Bauman's mother, Patty. These actors were the sole reason that I feel Stronger transcended the typical bio-drama in every sense. I love the quiet sense of dramatic weight that Stronger had. It doesn't show a ton of blood or trauma from the bombing, nor do we get extended close-ups of Gyllenhaal's loss of legs. Instead, director David Gordon Green ops to have his actors give the audience plenty of emotion through their words and facial expressions.
Stronger is a remarkably moving experience. It's really a personal romance that transcends into something that makes a whole generation inspired. Watch out for this one, it will be a sleeper pick come Oscar season, hopefully.
One of the pleasantries of frequenting movies in the theater : when you
go in maybe expecting a decent Gyllenhall performance in what will
probably be another sappy true life story and.... Its one of the best
faakkin movies of the year (as a Bostonian would say)! David Gordon
Green exceeds any expectations by pulling no punches, but at the same
time crafting a tender and difficult love story (this could probably be
on a double bill with the Big Sick, kind of the reverse side of that
maybe). Also Tatiana Maslany shows why she will be around for a while
(one hopes) post Orphan Black, and Clancy Brown reminds us why hes
still a national treasure in about ten minutes of screen time (as Jeff
It's raw, it doesn't pull away, but the filmmaking has a perfect kind of dramatic (and at times surprisingly comedy) touch that never goes too far, never draws out tears like a manipulative bastard. It's wonderful in that encouraging sense that while Bauman helped to ultimately inspire those simply by, you know, not just not dying but that he didn't give up, this director, who might be unique among his peers as a kind of art-house journeyman if that makes sense, crafts another film loaded to the brim with deeply emotional performances that resonate because of Gyllenhall but also everyone else around him. This is a film rich with an atmosphere that is that Boston in certain movies (The Fighter is another) where it feels like you're there.
Stronger is a case of a filmmaker and cast and entire production going beyond the lines of the usual by taking it down to the level of the basic, and yet it has and wrestles with truly existential problems: if one is still alive, perhaps by a little luck but also from the help of someone else, how do you cope with everyone calling you a hero when you feel like anything but? In other words, it shirks at phoniness, and carries the spirit of what I imagine is Bauman himself. Well well done!
Stronger is a brilliant film with strong performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, and especially Miranda Richardson. David Gordon Green's choice to use practical lighting and creating a setting that seems real results in an extremely sincere film. John Pollono writes a script that held true to Jeff Blauman's story by focusing more on his struggles and keeping the Boston Marathon tragedy in the background. Also boobs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me say this off the bat. I saw this film primarily because of Jake
Gyllenhaal and the rave reviews he's gotten in portraying Jeff Bauman,
the young man who lost his legs in the '13 Boston Marathon bombing and
became a symbol of hope. Not because I think the bombing itself has not
gotten enough attention and analysis from all quarters imaginable. The
film is less about the day of the bombing than about Bauman's long road
back afterward. On paper, this didn't look exceptionally enticing, but
the rousing reviews drew me in. A well-received film with an actor of
Gyllenhaal's caliber is tough to pass up.
There is enough narrative flow and great performances from Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany as his transient girlfriend and Miranda Richardson as his hard-drinking, boisterous mother to make this film worth seeing. And the depiction of the bombing itself is well-executed and flashback scenes to Bauman's ravaged condition in the seconds and minutes immediately following the blast are gritty and powerful. The depiction of the family's insensitivity to Bauman's personal hardship is a worthwhile theme here. A scene in which his friends and family are blithely watching a Red Sox game while he has a painful collapse in the bathroom is one of the film's more genuine moments. Maslany captures the girlfriend wonderfully, though I'm tempted to argue her prominence in the film has been overstated in the reviews.
But make no mistake. I've seen this kind of film many, many, many times before. It does not stand out as far as doing anything ground-breaking. It's a simple blue collar tale of struggle and recovery through sheer heart and will power, the kind of story that has been told through the ages. That's what's disingenuous about the reviews. They led me to believe this was something more than conventional. It's as tried and true as they come. Everything from Hollywood's fixation on the feisty Boston persona to the moment of a tempestuous argument between two loved ones to the bar fight with the token idiot who spouts his nonsense. And there is also that moment in the spotlight with one of your favorite sports teams while masking deep personal turmoil. You have it all here in spades. I give David Gordon Green credit in making hay with a formula that has been done before, seemingly since the earliest of days. Recommended for the great performances.
(RATING: ☆☆☆☆½ out of 5 )
THIS FILM IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: A gritty and emotional film that couldn't ask for a stronger performance than the one given by Jake Gyllenhaal.
SYNOPSIS: A biography of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing.
JIM'S REVIEW: The odds against Jeff Bauman surviving the horror of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing were slim and the chances any moviegoer won't be moved to tears and uplifted by this one man's personal tale of survival while experiencing David Gordon Green's Stronger are even less.
This heartfelt film takes on the before and after view of this common man. First seen as a hometown boy (before being cast as an hometown hero to the world), Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal) was a fun-loving avid Boston Red Sox fan caught in an on-again / off again relationship with his girlfriend, Erin (Tatianna Maslany). He lived an ordinary life, one filled with bars, beer, and blue collar stock characters. Then came the terrorist bombing which changed everything.
The story itself is predictable and manipulative, yet emotionally gripping. John Pollono's screenplay follows the formula to the T, or should I say from Point A (the horrific event) to Point B (overcoming the obstacles and hardships) to its uplifting Point C ending (pride and redemption). That said, it all works most effectively, due its honest depiction of a man in crisis.
And having that person played by the talented Mr. Gyllenhaal, a fine method actor who immersed himself in this real life role, gives the film the honest integrity and authenticity the film needs which helps to separate the movie from most biographies that wallow in self-pity and inner strength. Watching him struggle to come to terms with his injuries and finally walk with two prosthetic legs is gut-wrenching and Mr. Gyllenhaal shows his character's human flaws and intrinsic hopes with the least amount of melodramatic excess. His performance deserves award recognition.
Where the film truly succeeds is in avoiding the clichés of most biopics by making our hero too heroic and unreal. Mr. Gordon's direction is concise and insightful. He never allows Stronger to weaken. His film doesn't flinch from the ugly side of Jeff's rehabilitation, his dysfunctional family, and his sacrifices just to lead a normal life. It wisely covers the issue of instant fame and becoming a pawn for network news, a necessary symbol of courage for a nation, even if our hero wants none of that adoration. The film does end on an inspirational false note, as most film biopics do, in a scene at the ballpark that takes a misstep into gross sentimentality and an unabashed shout-out to patriotism. But the story always remains compelling and the acting is superb.
The rest of the cast could easily have played their parts rather routinely and still bring about the emotional clout: suffering girlfriend, loyal friends, worrisome parents, etc. But the actors shy away from the obvious and give their characters some gravitas. Ms. Maslany makes a fine partner as Jeff's supporting girlfriend, showing the pain and frustration beautifully. Carlos Sanz as the man who saved Jeff's life during the bombing, has a quiet and touching scene that is so nuanced and heartbreaking in its subtlety. It shows the collective despair of survivors and their kin. Miranda Richardson, as Jeff's boozy mother, is so memorable in her supporting role that she becomes unrecognizable, creating an indelible character while exposing her human flaws. Her rivalry with Erin brings needed tension to the family dynamics which separates this film from the run-of-the-mill inspirational saga. There are many scenes of undeniable pathos and melancholy, insightful moments in time, especially the parking lot confrontation between the two leads that builds to an emotional zenith.
Stronger is a rarity, a powerful film based on a true life story that is true to life. With a strong central performance, fine direction, and a screenplay that works on many emotional levels, this is one of the year's most satisfying dramas. Do not miss it!
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"Stronger" the new biopic film about Jeff Bauman and the 2013 Boston marathon bombing is one tale of courage and dealing with pain and sorrow before coming to terms with life thru determination. The film is set from the beginning and deals with the marathon bombing to the struggle and life changing days of one Jeff Bauman(in one of Jake Gyllenhaal's best performances). The city of Boston from the scenes and accents is captured just perfect and the pain and blood wounds seen are felt and seem real like as the hospital stay that involves Jeff and his struggle to get back up with family and friends is highlighted and showcased with such pain and tough determination. This film proves that one's life can be turned upside down with an unexpected event and can change forever. Still with love, courage, and determination it can make one stronger forever.
After a tragedy occurs, telling the stories of the individuals affected
is often the best way for others to understand and relate to what
happened. That's what the 2017 biographical drama "Stronger" (R, 1:56)
does with the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the story of victim Jeff
Bauman. He only survived because another bystander, Carlos Arredondo,
ran to the scene of the explosion, put tourniquets on both of Jeff's
legs, placed him in a wheelchair and helped get him into an ambulance.
A New York Times photo by Josh Haner, which showed Jeff in that
wheelchair, with Carlos at his side, became iconic. Responding to
widespread interest in his story, he joined forces with best-selling
author Bret Witter to write what became the 2014 book "Stronger", which
is the basis for this film.
Before the Marathon Bombing, Jeff Bauman (Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal) was an unremarkable, anonymous guy born and raised in Boston. He worked at Costco and loved his hometown sports teams especially the Red Sox to the point of superstition and even obsession. He lived in a modest apartment with his divorced alcoholic mother, Patty (Oscar nominee Miranda Richardson). Jeff was obsessed with local girl Erin Hurley (Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany), whom he had dated and who had already broken up with him three times. On the night of April 14, 2003, Jeff and Erin were still apart when she came into a neighborhood bar where Jeff and his friends were watching the Red Sox game on TV. He went over to talk to her, helped her get the other bar patrons to contribute to her effort to raise money by participating in the marathon and he promised to be there for her the next day at the finish line holding a sign.
The next day, as Jeff's waiting for Erin at the end of the course, a man bumps into him and Jeff turns to look at the guy who is walking away. Jeff looks down at something in the street. Then comes the explosion. Jeff finds himself on the ground lying in a pool of his own blood. Erin hears the sound ahead of her. She stops running, ducks into a local bar and sees on the TV a picture of Jeff, injured and being tended to by strangers. She rushes to the hospital, where Jeff's family and friends were also gathering. Jeff's father (Clancy Brown) fumes and even lashes out at Jeff's boss (Danny McCarthy) who shows up to offer help. After waiting anxiously, Jeff's loved ones learn that doctors had to amputate both legs above the knees. When he wakes up, not only does he manage to keep his sense of humor and his usual positive attitude (relatively speaking, of course), he's also able to give the FBI valuable information about the bombing.
Obviously, Jeff survives, but his life and the lives of those closest to him are changed forever. We see the pain and discomfort that Jeff's injuries cause him both in the hospital and when he finally gets to come home and we follow him as he adjusts to life without legs and begins the long and difficult recovery process. He receives gifts and well wishes from all over the world, he's greatly in demand for media interviews and he is given the opportunity to make public appearances at Bruins and Red Sox games. He goes along with much of it, but he really doesn't want any of it. He doesn't even want to meet with Carlos (Carlos Sanz), the man who saved his life. Jeff says that he doesn't want to be reminded of the worst day of his life. Jeff wants to walk again, but he approaches the challenge half- heartedly. He needs the love and support of his family, his friends and, especially Erin, even though he often treats them unkindly and even pushes them away. He doesn't want to be famous or inspirational, but it's out of his control. Something has got to give.
"Stronger" is a somewhat inspirational, but mostly bland bio-pic. With no disrespect to Jeff Bauman or any of the others directly or indirectly affected by the Boston Marathon Bombing, their individual stories are interesting, but aren't necessarily best served in the format of a feature film. Having said that, this one does about as good of a job as can be expected, given its limited focus. The screenplay by writer-actor John Pollono (who plays Tyler on TV's "This is Us") adapts the book of the film's title without being exploitive or flashy, telling the story almost entirely chronologically and only occasionally drifting into melodrama. Director David Gordon Green (mainly known for producing and directing TV series like "East Bound & Down" and "Vice Principals") does here what he did with 2014's "Manglehorn" and 2015's "Our Brand is Crisis", telling a story solidly, but making it less impactful than it probably should've been.
Green does, however, often get excellent performances out of his actors and this film is no exception. Gyllenhaal is as great as he was in similarly emotional roles like the desperate astronaut in "Life" (2017), the grieving father in "Nocturnal Animals" (2016) and the down-and-out boxer in "Southpaw" (2015), while Richardson and Maslany completely inhabit their roles. All three are award-worthy, especially Maslany in her most high-profile feature film role to date, following her personal triumph that is TV's "Orphan Black". In this film, she will be a revelation to many Movie Fans, while they may also notice and wonder how Gyllenhaal manages to continue giving exceptional performances in high-quality films every single year. This one may not be as exceptional as some man-versus-self films, but it's worth a look. "B"
Man's inhumanity to man is something none of us will ever understand.
This week, America is reeling from the worst mass shooting in it's
recent history, topping only the last record setting mass shooting just
one year ago. All seems hopeless to those who only see the worst in
humanity in times like these. But in tragedy's wake, typically, heroes
are born. First responders, police officers and yes, the victims
themselves. Stronger is a film about such people. Stronger is the film
of the moment and a film we desperately need at this moment.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, the famous man who lost both of his legs in the horrific Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013. He miraculously survives, despite his legs, and instantly becomes the symbol of the "Boston Strong" movement. Throughout, Bauman deals with becoming famous and living a newly disabled life, all the while stuck with the excruciating memory of the moment his legs were blown up in the bombing. It doesn't take long for a devastating case of PTSD to kick in. Despondent towards his family and friends, Bauman slips into alcoholism, laziness and carelessness which results in him getting his girlfriend pregnant. Not only does he endure an unrelenting pain, but he inflicts it on everyone that is near him. But after meeting his first responder Carlos, Bauman is finally reminded of how important he truly means to everyone around him. Hero or not, legless or not, he gave hope to all of those who lost hope in the face of terrorism and evil.
Stronger itself provides the same amount of hope to it's viewers, as well as capturing a grueling, painful account of rehabilitation. Gyllenahaal, despite being an abled human being, knocks it out of the park as the disabled Jeff Bauman. Tatiana Maslany also gives a stirring performance as the emotionally spent Erin. David Gordon Green gives a seasoned directing expert's approach to the tragedy of the Boston Bombing and the true story of Jeff Bauman. To those with a heavy heart following Las Vegas, make it an effort to see Stronger wherever you can.
I usually don't let emotions take over when watching a film, but when a
movie focuses all of its attention to the harsh realities of the true
story it's conveying, it's not to get a little teary-eyed. With last
years release of Patriots Day, the very idea of this film had be
worried that they were trying to bank off this tragedy, but that can't
be further from the truth with Stronger. Many may not find this film to
be quite as emotionally powerful as I did, but I feel that most people
will have to agree that it's done impeccably well in that regard. Here
is why Stronger deserves its critical praise and why you'll probably be
hearing about this film throughout award season very soon.
Thousands of people gather around to watch the Boston marathon, but nobody expected the event that occurred by the finish line. Stronger exists to open the eyes of those who saw this man (Jeff Bauman) as a hero. While he's the personification of a fighter, which makes him a hero to others, this story is also an exposé for everyone across the planet that has lost someone in a horrific way, or those who have been through a tragedy and must live with newfound consequences. Focussing on the hardships of what he went through after this tragedy, I was so glad to see a more global feel when sharing emotions with its audience.
Look, I know this may be too early to state, seeing that many more films are coming this year, but if both Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany both don't receive nominations for their performances here, I'll be genuinely shocked. When it comes to stories like this, you need to perfect your casting in order to make the audience believe this really happened, and my compliments toward these two young performers couldn't be any higher here. Every second either of them were on-screen, I found myself transfixed and completely sucked into their world. These two deliver what is quite possibly the performances of their careers, even though they both already have quite impressive resumes.
This man had already been through a lot before his incident, so having to go through this and find a way to live a somewhat normal life was always going to be a challenge. Nobody could've expected him to recover to full normality, but he definitely does the best he can, given certain circumstances. From a family that just wants to joke around most of the time, to being in a love/hate relationship with the girl of his dreams, to having to deal with the loss of his legs and never being able to live a normal life, this is a very hard journey to take in, even though it's incredibly well-done.
In the end, I left this film feeling empowered and saddened all at the same time. The roller coaster of emotions that Stronger sends you on it definitely one of the most powerful experiences you will have all year, whether or not you directly relate to it or not. With pulse-pounding realism, world- class performances, an emotionally resonant climax, and an overall journey that I believe everyone needs to experience, this is one of the best films of the year by far, at least in my opinion. I would be shocked if it's not talked about throughout award season. Stronger is the very definition of powerful, and although it can be hard to take in at times, I can't recommend checking this film out enough.
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