Monday, March 12, 2012


Leo is a millionaire video game/internet/social networking guy (we don't get to see him at work, and all we really know is that some Asian investors are considering putting tens of millions into the company he started).  Ellen, his wife, works tirelessly as a surgeon in a big-city E.R., on the night shift, getting the hard cases.  Well, she does get tired actually.  They have a daughter, Jackie, who's cute as can be, smart and perfect, but who is mostly being raised by the Filipino nanny.  In a sense, they're the perfect little family, but Leo and Ellen are both so flaky that I can't believe they're so successful.  Sure, there may be some flukish internet millionaires who had a great idea but are nincompoops otherwise.  And a doctor doesn't have to have her life together outside of the O.R. to be successful in it.  But this pair is not credible.

That criticism aside, Mammoth turns into a pretty good story about family life.  Not all of us can relate to having a foreign, live-in nanny, but surely we can all stop and think about how much time we spend with our kids.  And not all of us are flying overseas for multi-million dollar investment capital talks, but we can all stop and think about how our business life affects our family life.  Thankfully, we, in the U.S., don't typically have to relocate halfway around the world, leaving our kids behind with relatives, while we struggle to earn money to send home so our family can have a decent life, but we can stop and think about what sacrifices we make for our families.
The perfect, not-so-perfect family.
Mammoth explores these dilemmas as Ellen cares for a boy who was stabbed by his mom while Gloria care for Ellen's daughter, as Gloria's children miss her and wonder why she can't come home, as Leo twiddles his thumbs and gets into some uncharacteristic trouble in Thailand while his wife is at home.  On a larger scale, the contrasts between Leo's family's struggles and the struggles of Gloria's family in the Philippines, as well the poverty Leo observes in Thailand send a strong secondary message.  Written and directed by Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson, Mammoth has a mood and pace that set it apart from most American films--in a good way.  The strings of the story come together in the end that may be a little too neat and clean, contrasting with the seedy, disturbing paths the characters traveled, but I was left feeling good about the pro-family message here.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

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