The Films of Kimberly Peirce
Boys Don't Cry (March 26/08)
Kimberly Peirce's feature-length debut, Boys Don't Cry casts Hilary Swank as Teena Brandon - a transgendered twenty-year-old who passes herself off as a male and subsequently falls in with a crowd of good-natured hicks (including Chloe Sevigny's Lana and Peter Sarsgaard's John). While there's certainly no denying the strength of individual moments within the film (including a surprisingly thrilling car-chase sequence), Boys Don't Cry suffers from an overlong running time that ultimately mutes the story's overall impact (ie certain events near the end are lacking in the emotional power one imagines they're meant to possess). Yet it's just as clear that the uniformly superb performances prove instrumental in securing the movie's mild success, as - in addition to Sevigny and Sarsgaard's fine supporting work - Swank's indelible turn as Brandon/Teena is virtually hypnotic in its effectiveness. And though Peirce does a nice job of establishing this small town and its various inhabitants, there's no overlooking the fact that most of the film's characters aren't developed quite to the extent that one might've liked (ie it's impossible not to wonder just what's driving some of these characters towards their third-act decisions). Still, Boys Don't Cry generally comes off as intriguing and sporadically compelling effort that undoubtedly benefits from Swank's searing, justifiably lauded performance.
Stop-Loss (March 27/08)
Stop-Loss casts Ryan Phillippe as Brandon King, a decorated war veteran whose efforts at moving on with his life are thwarted after the United States government calls him back into service. Rather than acquiesce to the controversial clause within his contract, Brandon instead chooses to fight back by embarking on a road trip from Texas to Washington (where he'll approach a homegrown Senator for help). Filmmaker Kimberly Peirce has infused Stop-Loss with an aimless vibe that's undoubtedly exacerbated by her reliance on war-movie cliches, as most of the film's characters suffer from precisely the sort of problems one has come to expect from such an endeavor (ie one experiences debilitating flashbacks, another can't adjust to life at home, etc, etc). The almost egregiously deliberate pace certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the increasingly episodic bent of Peirce's undeniably melodramatic screenplay. However, Stop-Loss does boast an eye-opening, sporadically electrifying turn from Phillippe - with the actor offering up a performance that's surely the most effective of his career. The supporting cast, with the exception of Channing Tatum (who's just as underwhelming as ever here), is equally strong, though Peirce's inability to flesh out the story's periphery figures leaves talented actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cieran Hinds with exceedingly little to do. And while the whole thing generally remains watchable enough, Stop-Loss is, ultimately, a well put-together war effort that possesses too few innovative elements to warrant a hearty recommendation.