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Thursday, March 08, 2018


I usually don't care for movies like Stronger--movies that have the main character overcoming some kind of physical obstacle, in this case a man who has lost his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 (which means a lot of Boston accents, too). But I must give director David Gordon Green and writer John Pollono credit for being subtle, and not wrapping the film in the flag or in sanctimony. Also due credit is Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, who never thinks he's a hero.

Bauman, a likeable lunkhead who works at Costco and roots for the Sawx at the local tavern, has an on-again off-again relationship with Tatiana Masley. She's running in the Marathon so he makes a sign and goes to the finish line to show his support (it seems showing up to things was something he didn't do enough). He happens to be standing right next to one of the bombs, which obliterates his legs. He becomes a double amputee, and (plug for Costco's health benefits) gets state of the art prostheses.

But he has a hard time dealing with his hovering mother (an almost unrecognizable Miranda Richardson), and feels overwhelmed by adulation (he has a panic attack after making an appearance at a Bruins game). Masley has shown great support, but when she gets pregnant he flips out.

I don't know how much of this is true (it was based on Bauman's book) but it feels right. Many local actors were hired (Lenny Clarke as Uncle Bob is a particular delight). There's been a glut of Boston-based movies but to its credit I don't think this one mentions the word "wicked." I felt like I understood Bauman's plight, even though I haven't had to go through such hardship.

Green's career is interesting. He started as an indie darling and then graduated to silly films like Pineapple Express and Your Highness. Stronger, kind of between the two, seems a good place for him to work.

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