Frozen River

We’ve both been really sick, so watching movies has been a popular pass-time this week.  We burned through all the mindless comedies pretty quickly.  Tonight my husband was like “I don’t care, I’ll watch anything” so I wandered around in the drama section for a change.  I came out with Frozen River, partly because it had been nominated for a bunch of awards, and partly because I didn’t want to expend any more energy looking.

The movie was… good.  I think.  It was very realistic with really excellent acting, which I think is what impressed most people and won it awards.  The characters were so believable that I checked to make sure it wasn’t based on a true story… because if it had been based on a true story, it would explain why nothing happens.  I mean, stuff happens, but I don’t see the point.  Why would you write a story that feels this, I dunno… generic?, if not to immortalize something that actually happened?  It feels like the movie should have been a lot more poignant than it was.  Instead, it just felt like “Bad Decisions and Their Consequences: The Movie”, where the characters make bad decisions and then exactly what you would expect to happen goes on to happen.  I gather from some other reviews I peeked at that there was a racial/cultural element that they were going for, so maybe it went right over my head because I live in an area where all of those cultures aren’t nearly as stigmatized as they were maybe expected to be for this movie.

The premise of the movie is that a woman (Ray) is trying to raise her two sons (15 and 5) off of what she earns at her part-time retail job, after her husband runs off with all of their savings in order to feed his gambling addiction – just a few weeks before Christmas, no less.  You know things are rough when all you have to eat is popcorn and orange tang.  To make it worse, they had put money down on a new double-wide trailer which was to be delivered shortly after her husband split with the cash.  Without the savings, the delivery cannot be completed and now she will not have a new home to replace their decaying trailer, AND she’s out the $1500 down payment if she can’t come up with the rest of it before the deadline.

She spots her husband’s car in a parking lot, but it’s being driven by a woman (Lila) from the local Mohawk tribe who claims she found it abandoned at the bus station.  They have some somewhat unfriendly exchanges where they establish that no police are called because apparently it’s legal to steal cars as long as it’s on a reservation where the police have no jurisdiction (wouldn’t the license plate and registration be enough proof of ownership??). Then a hole is casually shot through the door of Lila’s home, to which her reaction is to bitch that she’ll need to have that fixed now.  I know America has a bizarre tolerance to guns but I can’t decide if that was realistic or not.  Lila finally relinquishes the keys, but as Ray is attempting to rig up an incredibly unsafe-looking towing solution to get her two cars home, Lila suggests that she knows someone who will buy the car from her for $2000, which is far more than it’s worth.  Ray agrees to go, and they bounce off down the road with Ray displaying incredibly undisciplined-trigger-discipline as she waves her pistol around to assert her authority while also driving.

Turns out Lila wasn’t actually going to sell the car, she was using the trunk in a smuggling operation to transport illegal immigrants across the border from Canada into the USA.  Since the Mohawk tribe extends across the border, they can cross the frozen river to cross the border and be out of the jurisdiction of the police while doing so.  Each trip nets them $2400.  Lila originally promises to give Ray half, then inexplicably tries to steal the car again (what part of this is going to work out for her, exactly?  Ray knows where she lives, what she does, has a gun, has legal ownership of the vehicle… wtf) before just running off with the cash.  Ray goes home (without picking up her other car…), begs for a promotion to full time at her shitty job and is denied, discovers her TV is about to be repossessed by the Rent-To-Own people (more evidence of bad decision making.  Do not rent-to-own shit, especially not gigantic TVs you can’t afford), then decides to go back to Lila’s house and demand her half of the profits.  Somehow, despite all the backstabbing and shooting, they partner up to do more smuggling runs.

Bad decisions lead to consequences lead to bad decisions lead to consequences, and then the movie ends.  I would not claim the characters learn much of anything through their actions in the movie, which is what made me question why the movie was written.  All I can really find is that there is a theme of “mothers love their children”.  Ray is trying to provide a nice house (and food…) for her children.  Lila is trying to provide money for her son which was taken from her because of a perception that she would be unable to provide for it.  There is a sequence involving an immigrant woman and her baby.  I gather from commentary that the message is that all these women are from different cultures and situations, but they all love and provide for their children… do we really need a movie to tell us that?

It’s not like it wasn’t interesting to watch – it’s incredibly realistic (the bad decisions they make are exactly the kinds of bad decisions you would expect, rather than feeling like an artifact of lazy writing) and the acting is worth a look-see – but it really did feel largely pointless in the end.  I was expecting more from something that won so many awards, but I suppose I just didn’t “get” it.

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About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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