Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Wolfpack

Image courtesy of Magnolia Entertainment. 
Here's an example of a film that probably should have been a little better than it ended up being. The subject matter of Crystal Moselle's documentary "The Wolfpack" is fascinating stuff, but the picture's execution comes off as a little jumbled and lacking the type of focus that could have made this something special.

It's not a bad movie by any means and the story behind the Angulo family is interesting enough to help overlook some of the film's flaws. In fact, the story behind the making of the movie is equally as interesting and occasionally overshadows what's actually on screen.

Moselle apparently spotted the six Angulo brothers walking down the street in suits and sunglasses on the streets of New York City and, upon asking them, came to find out that they were mimicking the opening sequence of Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs."

As it turns out, the brothers as well as their sister, mother and father all lived in a Lower East Side apartment and, for many years, rarely ventured out of it. Their father, who hailed from South America, met their mother, an Ohioan, years before and the two decided to have as many children as possible, giving them all Sanskrit names and getting them to all grow their hair very long.

The boys' father refused to work and their mother mostly kept house, while the family lived under strict rules, including not being able to leave the apartment. As one of the boys notes at the film's beginning, there were years when the clan only left the apartment once or twice and, during some years, not at all.

So, the Angulo boys learned about the world mostly through movies, which they would reenact, using elaborately made costumes that were impressive, considering their budget. Films watched and reenacted throughout the course of "The Wolfpack" include Tarantino's work as well as "Blue Velvet" and a number of action pictures and comic book movies, "Batman" especially.

So, while the content of Moselle's film is gripping, the editing is a bit problematic. The movie suffers from not having a flow, so to speak, and often feels as if it is one scene after the next without an overall theme. And although documentarians, no doubt, want to respect their subjects, there are times when it feels as if the filmmakers are not prying enough into why this family has lived the way it has for so long. The father is asked if he regrets forcing his children to live indoors for most of their lives, but he's not really pushed as to why.

Despite these flaws, there are some powerful moments here, such as one son admitting that one of his earliest memories was being afraid or another when the boys experience their first movie in a theater (a screening of David O. Russell's "The Fighter" at the CC Village Cinemas East).

"The Wolfpack" could be recommended due to its fascinating story, although I wished it could have been a little more focused. It is often how the footage for a documentary is put together that separates the great ones from the rest and it's a shame that "The Wolfpack" doesn't work quite as well as it might have.

No comments:

Post a Comment