Film Reviews

THE WOODSMAN

By • Dec 24th, 2004 •

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Newmarket Films / Dash Films, Lee Daniels Entertainment
Running time — 87 minutes / No MPAA rating

QUOTE: An honest screenplay and an unsentimental performance by Bacon.

Walter (Kevin Bacon) is a 45-year-old pedophile released from prison after serving 12 years. Through a friend of his father’s, Walter gets a job at a lumberyard. His apartment window faces a schoolyard and, apparently, though convicted child molesters have to stay a certain number of feet away from places where children gather, and Walter’s apartment does that to a foot, his window faces the school. Good for window-shopping when there is nothing on TV worth watching.

The lumberyard’s clerk Mary-Kay (Eve) knows Walter did something nasty. Probably because the company hires ex-cons all the time. Mary-Kay tells tough employee Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick) to keep away from him. Vicki resents the advice and propositions Walter. He’s clearly damaged goods but she is curious about him. He doesn’t want to tell her about molesting young girls before they have sex.

Walter is a good lover without sexual hang-ups. Vicki likes him. He can get pleasure from a mature woman even though he still prefers the company of little girls. Vicki had problems in her childhood and seems interested in having a relationship with Walter, whatever he has done. And if it were grand theft auto or armed robbery, he would have told her. Gosh, for first-degree murder Walter would have been out – with time served and good behavior – in less than 12 years. What did Vicki think he was convicted of?

Walter does have the friendship of his brother-in-law Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) though his sister wants no part of him. Good thing too, since Walter has a prepubescent niece. Walter has a court-appointed therapist, Rosen (Michael Shannon), who wants him, absurdly, to keep a journal, and a parole officer Sgt. Lucas (Mos Def), who is keeping a close eye on his comings and goings.

Walter confides in Vicki who, even though she bragged about not be shocked by anything, is horrified. Then Mary-Kay finds out what Walter was in prison for. And, since there is never anything good on TV, Walter keeps watching a guy hanging out by the school with a bag of candy.

Directed by Nicole Kassel, and written by Steve Fechter and Kassel, THE WOODSMAN, is a shocking, straightforward and honest look at a man struggling with his pedophilia. He is self-aware. He knows his obsession is wrong and the consequences, but he still cannot suppress his overriding sexual compulsion. It is fascinating how the writers allowed the truth to be so bluntly expressed. Even after all Walter has been through, and whatever hope lies ahead with Vicki, he still wants to spend time with an eleven-year-old. It’s a pretty hairy scene nicely handled by Bacon and young actress Hannah Pilkes.

What drove Walter to become a child molester? Walter is a broken man not given to open reflection on what happened to him. He is out and free. He is being watched. But he still likes to go to the mall and follow certain girls around.

Bacon gives a very strong performance without copping out by giving Walter any reason for his crimes. This is not a sentimental performance. Bacon gives Walter just enough dimensions to make the character interesting: He is alternatively creepy, smart, and a very troubled man. The writers are to be praised for adding a scene that is dangerous and having it play out so that Walter is sharply defined and may, without pounding us over the head with it, might make it through “to normal” with Vicki’s help.


Crew:
Director: Nicole Kassel
Screenwriters: Steven Fetcher and Nicole Kassel
Based on the play by: Steven Fechter
Executive producers: Damon Dash, Kevin Bacon, Brook Alenfefst, Cawn Lenfest
Co-executive producer: Marvin Britto
Co-producers: Lisa Cortes, Valerie Hoffman, Dave Robinson
Associate producer: Candice Williams
Director of photography: Xavier Perez Grobet
Editors: Brian A. Kates, Lisa Frutchtman
Music: Nathan Larson
Music supervisor: Linda Cohen
Production designer: Stephen Beatrice
Costume designer: Frank Fleming
Sound: Thomas J. Varga

Cast:
Walter: Kevin Bacon
Vicki: Kyra Sedgwick
Mary-Kay: Eve
Sgt. Lucas: Mos Def
Bob: David Alan Grier
Carlos: Benjamin Bratt
Rosen: Michael Shannon
Robin: Hannah Pilkes
Pedro: Carlos Leon

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