A Prize-winning Film

Bonnie Godas

When I get the opportunity to review a film, I go in with an open mind to expect anything. Some are easy to watch and then there are ones that the suspense and sometimes-graphic details can be so intense, I find myself casually looking down and away from the screen. In this film, it was during the first five minutes, (covering my ears would be too obvious and not very professional) After I retain my composure, I try again to get back on the horse and go for the ride. And what a ride it was. Nobel Son is a dark, comedic, psychological thriller with great sound effects and techno music by Crystal Method that encompasses just about everything you can imagine. It is the story about a dysfunctional family that becomes a victim of revenge and grotesque violence. The film stars Alan Rickman (Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest) as the narcissistic, self-righteous, womanizing professor Eli Michaelson who has recently found out he has won the Nobel Prize. His wife Sara, played by Mary Steenburgen, a forensic psychiatrist that soon finds herself applying her profession to her personal life when their son Barkley, played by Bryan Greenberg, a PhD student who is writing his thesis on cannibalism, is kidnapped by a psychopath that holds him for the 2 million dollar Nobel prize as ransom.

Nobel (hence, Nobel Prize) Son is funny, gross, dark, mysterious, and a disturbing story that is, in fact, an excellent psychological thriller that shouldn’t be missed. Yes, there are some predictable scenes like those disturbing bathtub incidents one often sees in these types of movies, but there are still plenty of surprises in store for even the most skeptical viewers. In comparison to other dark comedies of the past like Fargo, a 1996 film directed by the Cohen brothers, they are close to Nobel Son in terms of characters that are so off the wall that somehow it works. The violence in Fargo, like Nobel Son, is distributed well throughout the film so that it is not too overwhelming, allowing the viewer to somehow tolerate it.

Directed by Randall Miller and supported by a great but extremely eclectic cast of Bill Pullman (a UMass Alum) as the detective, City Hall, the mentally challenged, sex crazed, bad poet, Danny Devito, an ex psychiatric patient with intense Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Thaddeus James, the most disturbed fellow of all played by Shawn Hatosy completes this ensemble of interesting characters. As the story unfolds, you are intimately introduced to each of these characters, but at times it really isn’t easy to figure out how this is all going to come together while it constantly keeping you guessing. I found myself thinking, “What? How bizarre! He isn’t what I thought he was”, or, “where did that come from?”

So really pay attention and you probably won’t know the ultimate conclusion until the last few minutes of the movie. So enjoy the ride and have fun.