MRR Review: "Chlorine"

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Revolves around a family struggling to maintain their well-to-do lifestyle in their overly materialistic New England community.
2.5

Rating: R
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2014
Directed by: Jay Alaimo
Genre: Comedy / Drama

Set in suburban New England, "Chlorine" focuses on a fractured family living life very much apart. From engaging in shady business deals to entering adulthood, each character faces a unique personal crisis. After experiencing the effects of greed and jealousy, the family discovers what is truly important in life.

Plot Summary

As the film opens, the audience is introduced to Roger, a long-time banker. It immediately becomes apparent that Roger is drifting through life rather than pursuing what he really wants. After being passed over for a promotion at work time and time again, Roger is willing to turn to illegal means to achieve true financial gain. His disdain for his job has affected his relationship with his wife, Georgie. Lacking affection from her husband, Georgie has become obsessed with learning to ride a motorcycle and turns to alcohol to take the sting out of her failing marriage. Both Roger and Georgie envy the life of Roger's boss, Doug, and his wife, Katherine. Roger yearns for Doug's powerful position, and Georgie is jealous of Katherine's ability to freely spend money. With their relationship deteriorating, Roger and Georgie are on the brink of divorce.

Roger and Georgie's relationship has profound effects on both of their children. Their daughter, Cynthia, spends most of her time at the local swimming pool. Unable to confide in either of her parents, Cynthia struggles through the transition from child to adult. Her older brother, Henry, works for an immoral contractor who cuts corners to save money. Since he has learned from his father to value money above all else, Henry jumps at the chance to enter into a new business deal with his boss. Henry and Georgie soon convince Roger to join in the business deal. However, both men soon realize that they must risk breaking the entire family apart to get the money they desire. Faced with losing each other, the family soon begins to realize that love and relationships are more important than money and the material things they do not have. Although "Chlorine" uses dark humor to highlight the risks of greed and jealousy, the film ultimately ends with a heart-warming scene.

Cast of Characters

Although the story has been told before, "Chlorine" expertly captures the best, and worst, aspects of human nature. With a mix of veteran and relatively unknown actors, this film features solid performances from all cast members. Actors Vincent D'Onofrio and Kyra Sedgwick effectively capture the emotional struggles faced by Roger and Georgie. Their performances are believable and their crises identifiable.

Flora Cross and Ryan Donowho bring a youthful perspective to the film. Cross, who plays Cynthia, masters the task of bringing emotion to a character that has ultimately shut herself off from those around her. Likewise, Donowho captures the essence of youthful naivety without making his character removed from what is happening around him. Although Tom Sizemore and Elisabeth Rohm make only brief appearances, they create memorable characters.

Screenplay

Although many movies exist that detail the inner workings of families, the script of "Chlorine" is surprisingly original. Cinematographer Paul Daley infused just enough dark humor to offset the tragic events in the film. The characters also spend much of the film having witty conversations with each other rather than complaining about their current situations. The dialogue effectively holds the audience's attention throughout the film.

Soundtrack and Setting

Director Jay Alaimo expertly crafts a mundane setting that reflects the bleak lives of the characters. Lacking powerful colors and set to a melodic soundtrack, the characters' emotions rightfully remain in the forefront. The setting also lacks identifiable landmarks, making the film seem as though it could be set in any home or community across the country. This works to bridge the gap between the screen and the audience.

Imagery

Alaimo also punctuates the film with striking imagery. For example, the opening scene, which shows a young man snorting a line of cocaine, foreshadows Roger's involvement with a drug dealer. Additionally, an early scene shows Cynthia at a swim meet struggling to get air while swallowing water from the pool. This scene represents the character's personal struggle to wade through adolescence and also gives meaning to the title of the film. Alaimo's strong imagery ultimately offsets the mundane setting of the film.

"Chlorine" provides a refreshing view of American families. Unlike the majority of mainstream films that feature characters with money and a vast array of material items, "Chlorine" warns of the risks of valuing things more than relationships. With an exceptional cast and an important message, "Chlorine" is a must-see drama.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5