Frozen River (USA; 97 min.)


directed by: Courtney Hunt
starring: Melissa Leo; Missy Upham; Michael O’Keefe; Charlie McDermott
Frozen River
 

Bruce says: "Well known character actress Melissa Leo has 37 film credits since 2005; that comprises just half of her resume compiled over a twenty four year period. She must be one of the busiest actors in the business as of late since twenty one of her film credits were accrued in the past two years. Her credits include high profile films like 21 GRAMS and THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA and a substantial part in indie THE CAKE EATERS. Such actors rarely get the chance to have a leading role. For Melissa Leo, FROZEN RIVER is truly the chance of a lifetime as she plays a character with whom one can easily identify in spite of her being unlikable much of the time. Named Best Narrative Feature at the recent 2008 Provincetown International Film Festival, FROZEN RIVER also won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier in the year.

"FROZEN RIVER is a gritty thriller that takes place in the week or so before Christmas. Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) lives in a Massena, NY mobile home with her two sons. She has a job at a local Yankee Dollar store which does not net enough to make ends meet. She has her heart set on making the final payments for a double wide but those hopes are dimming since her husband has disappeared once again, probably off on a gambling spree. She goes to the local bingo parlor in hopes of finding him since his car is in the parking lot. A young native-American woman (Missy Upham) exits the bingo parlor and gets in his car and drives off. Ray follows her home to her tiny one room trailer in the woods at the edge of the Mohawk Reservation. Thus begins a strange business relationship. Soon the two women are smuggling illegal Chinese immigrants across the border. The risk exposure is limited because the Mohawk Reservation, which occupies land in both Quebec, Canada and the United States, is off limits to the border patrol. Consequently, the only chance of getting caught by the local police is between the reservation and the Massena motel which is the designated drop off.

"The catch is that the women have to drive across the frozen St Laurence River for the pick-ups. Ray’s reaction is 'that’s so fuckin’ stupid' but she needs the money badly. Her kids are surviving on Tang and popcorn for breakfast and dinner. Lila, her new found partner in crime, shows her distaste for the venture with 'I don’t usually work with whites.' As the weather gets rougher the trips get more risky. Warm weather has melted spots in the river and a pending blizzard is limiting visibility. Meanwhile, Ray’s older son T.J. is left to watch his younger brother and to figure out how to maintain the myth of Santa Claus. Ray and Lila decide to make one last trip; only this time the illegal immigrants are not Chinese and the pick-up is in provincial Quebec a considerable distance off the reservation.

"The strength of FROZEN RIVER lies in its spare script and actors who create totally believable characterizations. Director Courtney Hunt presents a vivid picture of the myriad of struggles haunting America’s underclass, the strained racial relationships nearby Native-American Reservations and small town demographics. 4 1/2 cats

"FROZEN RIVER screened at the 2008 Provincetown International Film Festival."

 
Beth Caldwell says: "You know, I usually decide not to review films that I don't like, mostly so I don't ruin the experience for someone else who might like it. But I am writing this negative review of Frozen River with no regrets. I thought the film was terrible. The obvious worst flaw was poor acting on the part of every single person in the film. The teenager was the best actor of all and that was probably because he didn't have much screen time. I could not believe that this film won the jury prize at Sundance. How am I to believe there were no better films that year? The idea was good, and visual design/cinematography was good, but the whole thing was poorly delivered.

"Spoiler: For example, I do not know what the film makers were thinking when they put that story together about the native woman and her child. None of the plot made any sense! The mother in law took the baby from the hospital to raise the child in a decent home, yet the loser mom who lives in a tiny trailer still tries to send money to the baby. When she finally takes the baby back, we don't really understand why she gets to do this when before she wasn't allowed. What exactly is the price she was supposed to pay to get the kid back? And, what kind of fight was that? 'you can't have him!'....'give me his coat'...oh well, I guess you can have him...end scene. What the hell! And don't get me started on the frozen baby issue.

The only reason I give the extra 1/2 cat is because it wasn't so bad that I walked out.
1 1/2 cats."