Reservation Road DVD Review
By Prairie Miller
Like its title, Reservation Road is just too self-consciously packed with convenient coincidences and metaphors to sustain the kind of surprise suspense that is essential to fueling forceful drama. The story of a weak-willed man who, well, has reservations about stopping on a road to help a child he's just run over by accident, takes a wrong turn by focusing on uncontrolled emotions to drive a plot rather than structurally sustained human conflicts.
Written and directed by Academy Award nominated Irish screenwriter Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) from the novel of the same name by John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road stars Mark Ruffalo as Dwight, a stressed out suburban Connecticut lawyer desperate to cling to a close relationship with his school-age son Lucas (Eddie Alderson) with whom he has limited visitation rights arranged through his less than receptive ex-wife Ruth (Mira Sorvino). On the long ride home with a sleeping Lucas one night from a Red Sox game, Dwight hits a young boy who has wandered into the road at a gas station where he parents, local college professor Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) and housewife Grace (Jennifer Connelly) have stopped. Dwight panics and drives off, and soon after gets rid of his car by donating it to charity.
Now either this otherwise cozy Connecticut burb around Reservation Road is unbelievably small, or else uncommonly rife with multiple coincidences than is normally within the realm of possibility. Ruth just happens to be the dead boy's teacher, and a grieving Ethan just happens to hire Dwight as his investigative lawyer when the town police, apparently the only ones around who aren't susceptible to helpful coincidences, come up with barely a clue to solve the case of the errant mystery hit and run driver. And if the town is indeed so compact, why didn't either Ethan or Dwight experience some spark of recognition towards one another on that fateful night.
Reservations about Reservation Road though, are offset by explosive yet dramatically complex and nuanced ensemble performances by Phoenix as a distraught dad torn between incapacitating psychological wounds and an overwhelming, obsessive urge for revenge, Connelly as an anguished mother and wife denied the necessary support and comfort from her emotionally thwarted spouse, and Ruffalo, whose craven sense of self-preservation causes him to lose touch with his moral compass in the world. This urgent topic admirably preoccupies director Terry George, whether in Rwanda or here at home, as he weighs the frailties of human nature and conflicting impulses towards cowardice and revenge, or a far more difficult courage and honor on a far too troubled planet.
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: Deleted Scenes; Featurette: Looking Back On Reservation Road
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