Tag Archives: Keanu Reeves

To the Bone (2017): A Grounded, Painful Look at Addiction

[BS Note: This film is currently available for streaming on Netflix]

With glamorous images of people with seemingly perfect looks and illustrious lives exacerbated by social media, we are inundated with unrealistic ideals of how we should look and behave. For some, this can lead to harmful behaviors, namely eating disorders. To the Bone follows Ellen (Lily Collins; Mirror Mirror), a 20-year-old living with anorexia nervosa. She has just left her fourth treatment facility without showing any improvement and returns home to a stepmother who is unsure of what to do next. She finds one final physician who may be Ellen’s last chance at recovery.

Keanu Reeves (John Wick) turns up in an unexpected, but welcome supporting role. He plays Dr. Beckham, an eating disorder specialist known for his high success rate and unusual methods. Reeves plays Beckham as a tough, no-nonsense doctor. Instead of sterile clinical language, he is direct and almost confrontational. “I’m not going to treat you if you aren’t interested in living”, he tells Ellen. His experience makes him impatient with pleasantries, but detailed during actual treatment and his advice, however blunt, is filled with support. He genuinely cares for the well-being of his patients and Reeves’s confident performance highlights his intelligence, understanding, and compassion.

The physical effects of anorexia create some of the film’s most unsettling images.

Director Marti Noxon’s approach to group dynamics goes far beyond the typical addiction movie. Instead of only focusing on Ellen’s struggles, she takes time to explore the damage done to her loved ones. This ranges from a mother too hurt to look at her suffering daughter, a frustrated stepmother, an absent father, and a loving younger sibling who misses having her older sister in her life. Noxon understands that these afflictions also manifest differently. She uses the different patients in the treatment home to show the lengths to which people will go. Whether it’s laxatives, diet pills, or hiding bags full of vomit, these are people trapped by their disorder into an unstable frame of mind. As a test of her size, Ellen tries to wrap her thumb and forefinger around her bicep. The film is deeply disturbing in its depiction of the unrealistic, self-destructive ideals the patients impose on themselves and the rippling effects they have on their families.

Collins is frightening in her performance. She has written about her own struggles with eating disorders and she clearly draws from those personal experiences in her acting. Her progressively skeletal frame and gaunt facial features show her deteriorating condition. “You’re a ghost”, her mom says after seeing her. The film has faced some backlash over its depiction of anorexia, but it neither glorifies nor indicts people with eating disorders. It repeatedly states its position: that this an addiction and one without clean answers. When Ellen’s stepmother tries to tell her doctor that the disorder has something to do with her mother, he cuts her off and says, “It’s never that simple.” This isn’t a film about easy solutions or motivational speeches. Noxon delves into the obsessive behaviors of anorexics and the fractured families that may be both a source and symptom of the disorder. The only exception is a dream sequence near the conclusion that is embarrassing in its literalism and contradicts the film’s grounded tone. Save for this specific mistake, Noxon has created a realistic examination of the struggles of someone clinging to warped body image ideals and the turmoil it can create for those who love them.

4/5 stars.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

When the first John Wick came out the consensus reaction was “Keanu Reeves is in a good movie?”. This time it should be “Keanu Reeves is in a good sequel???”. After killing his way through hordes of gangsters and their security guards to avenge the death of his puppy in the first film, John Wick: Chapter 2 opens with Wick violently taking back his beloved car. He returns home planning on resuming his retirement only to be greeted by a former colleague. An Italian gangster, Silvio D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), wants a debt repaid. Years ago, in order to complete his final task for retirement, Wick swore a blood oath in exchange for help. Now D’Antonio wants him to kill someone to return the favor. Bound by the laws of their society, Wick has to comply which causes a fallout and leads to a $7 million bounty being placed on his head.

The film is surprisingly slow to begin. The explanation of the plot is somewhat force-fed to the audience and is a blatantly retroactive addition to his story made to fuel the sequel the filmmakers never expected to have the chance to make. Even after the setup is made clear, Wick spends what feels like an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if he can get out of his oath. The actual running time of this section may not be long, but it certainly felt that way. Fortunately, after he decides to take the job, the film quickly kicks into high gear and never slows down.

A gorgeous movie filled with unique settings and vibrant colors.

John Wick: Chapter 2 may be the best adaptation of the Hitman video game series ever made (let’s ignore the two official adaptations, everyone else has). As John has to take out a target or escape from other criminals trying to do the same to him, the film, like the games, always emphasizes the scale of its settings. John wades through a crowded concert, sneaks through a busy subway station, and even nonchalantly strolls through a building while exchanging fire from suppressed pistols without alerting the regular people around him. Imagine the scale of the club scene from the original carried into almost every encounter. This allows the scenarios to continually feel fresh and keeps the tension high, despite the fact they are on paper very similar. The best comparison is The Raid 2, another sequel to a great action film that uses its increased budget to bolster the scope of its violence.

The frequent scuffles may stretch belief, but they are endlessly entertaining. Wick uses his trademark “gun-fu” as he melees and headshots his way through any opposition. Director Chad Stahelski’s background as a stuntman and stunt coordinator shows as combat is flawlessly executed. Reeves makes for an imposing presence and even the ridiculous body count seems acceptable. Wick’s nickname of the boogeyman is fully earned as his methodical precision trumps his opponents. The best part of Reeves’s performance is not that he is believable during the action, but that he also adds personality to Wick’s fighting. Wick isn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger holding a minigun and happily dishing out bullets. No, he is the master fighter who is weary of his profession. Wick’s desire to escape his trade is palpable as he sighs and wipes his brow after each brawl. John Wick: Chapter 2 is the chaotic, beautifully choreographed violence we’ve all been waiting for. For the sake of action movie fans everywhere, let’s hope he stays out of retirement long enough for a third movie.

4/5 stars.