Manic

"Good"

Manic Review


When troubled teen Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes postal, gets put in restraints, and is commited by his mother to a juvenile mental facility, we get sent there, as well. Suddenly, we're in institutional surroundings much like that in Girl, Interrupted -- only we stay there. We don't get to escape and have an adventure on the outside. What's worse, we're subjected to digital video camera work that is tortuous enough to bring out whatever manic manifestation there might be lurking on the edge of our frontal lobe. It's cinema verité and as subjective as a camera can be.

The backstory on Lyle is that he attacked a kid with a baseball bat. Yes, the guy taunted him during a baseball game, and Lyle has had his share of troubles at home -- all of which is going to come out in therapy -- but that's why he's considered enough of a menace to society and to himself to make him a candidate for Northward Mental Institution, a spa for undisciplined youths run by therapist-in-charge Dr. David Monroe (Don Cheadle). Totally tight-lipped at first, Lyle commands attention by the sheer unpredictability of how and when his fast fuse of rage will ignite into violence.

He's not the problem, the world is. And that mind set is not quickly or easily melted away by group interaction. But, slowly, as he tests the mental landscape of those around him: his shy, repressed roommate Kenny (Cody Lightning of Smoke Signals), the dysfunctional bully Michael (Eden Henson), the over-painted lady, the sweet, soulful-eyed rape victim Tracy (Zooey Deschanel), and the rest of the gang, he responds and becomes a part of it.

But the thing about this picture is the concept and style of its making. Intimate, wide angle, hand-held camerawork is as much a sign of low budgets as it is of directorial ego-driven inspiration. Here, first-time director Jordan Melamed uses his lens as an in-your-face player pushing into the melee as Lyle and fellow inmates act out. The level of destruction increases with the proximity of the camera, combining immediacy with jumpiness and wild framing, creating a dynamic all its own. Is it a good storytelling device, heightening the manic brain activity of the participants? Some filmgoers will think so; some are likely to be put off by its intrusiveness. In more narrative scenes, the actors perform in real time (no cuts) as the camera pursues angles, documentary style.

Be that as it may, the movie works only to the extent you get involved with each kid's efforts or inability to adjust to the traumas of his past. Some of their stories beg for more understanding, but ultimately most add up enough to produce an involving connection. The sense of spontaneity and welcome moments of humor contribute positively.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is finely absorbed and convincing in his acute portrayal of pent-up rebellion, a young actor worth watching. The standout is Don Cheadle as the all-too-human counselor who takes his own weaknesses into account when guiding his disturbed charges. More often than not, Cheadle brings a snide humor to his roles (Ocean's Eleven) but here suppresses it to great effect. Not reaching for the gag or the cliché concentrates him on using his own admirable humanity as he reaches for the insight that might affect a life.

Discounting a new director's attempts at symbolism and over-energetic enthusiasm, the honesty behind the material and the script's refusal to pander or compromise makes Manic painfully attractive to youth everywhere who have a bone to pick with their elders. It's a film with intrinsic relevance in their world.

Try Prozac!



Manic

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd May 2003

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jordan Melamed

Starring: as Lyle, as Dr. David Monroe, as Michael, as Kenny, Sara Rivas as Sara, as Tracy

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.