Much praise has gone to THE WOODSMAN, a recent movie release about a pedophile (Kevin Bacon) released from prison after twelve years, who struggles with his impulses while starting a relationship with a co-worker (Kyra Sedgewick).
The praise has all singled out Bacon's powerful performance.
Well, yeah. Bacon is terrific. And I am absolutely willing to buy the concept of a serial pedophile who, once released, doesn't WANT to do it again...but I can't buy where this film goes.
While powerful, the movie is also profoundly dishonest -- dangerously dishonest
-- in ways that insult the subject matter.
Consider this a spoiler warning.
A key plotline has the pedophile, who has unwillingly rented an apartment across the street from an Elementary school, spot another sexual predator hanging around the school. Immediately recognizing the guy's intent, he watches with sick paralysis, unable to act.
He simultaneously finds himself sickly attracted to little girls at the mall and on the bus.
UNTIL, making overtures to a ten-year-old-girl in the park, he determines that the little girl is already being molested by her father, sees the pain this experience has caused, and, filled with self-loathing, confronts and beats up the other guy.
The film treats this as a redemptive act, and fades out with him moving in with pretty Kyra Sedgewick, to live what we're supposed to believe will be a law-abiding life.
Even the cop who has been harassing him since his release seems to buy this.
He knows that Bacon's character is responsible for beating up the other perve, who was wanted elsewhere for raping kids. But he obliquely lets Bacon's character know that he knows, and wishes him luck, while simultaneously acknowledging that he will keep an eye on him.
Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
In the first place, a cop handed the opportunity to imprison a paroled child molester, on ANY charge, will take that opportunity as a gift. He will not take the position that the molester has shown himself to be a good guy.
He will send the sicko's ass back to prison.
And in the second place, he will be right to do so.
I refuse to believe the comforting fiction that a serial child molester, attracted to girls of 10 and 12 (as opposed to a guy who, lets say, accidentally sleeps with a mature-looking girl of 15 he thought to be older), can be redeemed by conscience and the love of a good woman.
I refuse to believe that he can cure himself out of sheer good intentions.
EVEN IF HE WANTS TO, and some folks will argue that even that's a stretch.
I TOTALLY REJECT THE IDEA THAT A GUY WHO LURKED ON A PARK BENCH INVITING LONELY GIRLS TO SIT ON HIS LAP IS OKAY JUST BECAUSE HE BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF ANOTHER GUY WITH A SIMILAR FETISH.
That's what this film seems to be saying.
THE WOODSMAN appears on many best-ten lists, mostly on the basis of the strong subject matter and the powerful Bacon performance. In actual effect, it's dangerously naive at best and pernicious at worst.
At the very worst interpretation, it's downright evil.
Well-made. Good performance by Bacon. Good performance by Sedgewick.
Piece of shit.
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