TITLE: Ben is Back
Why must the Best Actress category always be so difficult?
I’m a longtime #JuliaRoberts fan, despite some of her career misses. And in another year, and with a better movie, Roberts would have received a Best Actress nomination for #PeterHedges’ #BenisBack. Because honestly, this just might be her finest hour.
Ben (#LucasHedges, on a roll) might be the title character, but it’s Roberts Holly that keeps you watching. This is the juiciest role Roberts has had in years. Holly is a loving and caring mother, to a fault. She doesn’t want to believe that her son is up to no good, yet when she has these wake up calls, she snaps into strong-willed mother mode. The way Roberts is able to constantly shift gears is undeniably impressive.
I really liked the first half of “Ben is Back.” It’s filled with uncomfortable close calls and family tensions. It’s the movie you expect it to be, and perfectly grounded in reality. You’re always afraid that, at any moment, Ben might be triggered to go back to his old ways. I also admired the subtlety. They could’ve shown us flashbacks, but they’d rather just tell us. Which is fine in this case.
To me though, the movie sort of crumbles in the second half. Not that it’s bad, necessarily, but it has a tendency to meander and it kind of ditches the realism established by the first half to go for a more “theatrical route.” In other words, it feels like a movie. Holly constantly keeps you watching because her actions are interesting, but I had a hard time buying some of them, even though there’s one scenario, involving an old friend of Ben’s, that is fascinating.
And then there’s the ending, which gives the title a double meaning. That aspect I like. What I’m not so big on is the ending itself though. There’s no solution. We can leave it up to the imagination, yes, but what are we to take away from this movie by the time it’s over? Also some of the shaky camera work made me dizzy.
In the end, it’s worth seeing for Roberts’ sensational performance, even if it’s a wobbly journey. ⭐️⭐️1/2