“Snow Angels” (2008)

I remember the glowing reviews of Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips on Ebert and Roeper At the Movies when Snow Angels came out, so I was excited when the dvd finally came in at the library. My husband G. Grod said he didn’t want to watch it, as it would be too depressing. Alas, he was right. Snow Angels starts with a hint of tragedy to come, but that hint has nothing on the tragedy that does come, which is all the more wrenching for its unexpectedness.

The film has a lot going for it. Much of the imagery is beautiful, and lingers. There is a sweet, mostly believable romance between teens Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby. Both Angarano and Sam Rockwell give tremendous and moving performances.

Less successful is Kate Beckinsale, less because of her acting ability than because she no longer looks like a real-enough person to be believable in a small-town tale like this. Her long, groomed hair, the sculpted slope of her nose, her full lips, her lack of forehead movement, and her inflated chest all reminded me of a Barbie doll, not a believable, sympathetic character. Especially in scenes with Rockwell, Beckinsale’s look rang false, both because of its artificiality, and because her superficial prettiness was not a match for Rockwell’s everyday schlub. A.O. Scott had a similar reaction, from his review:

As for Ms. Beckinsale, her skill and discipline cannot overcome the sense that she is an exotic species transplanted into this grim ecosystem. Hard as she works to convince us otherwise, it’s a stretch to believe that a woman with the kind of poised confidence in her own beauty she manifests would wind up with an underachieving mouth breather like Glenn.

This boy/girl imbalance was also the only false note for me in the teen romance. Angarano was charmingly, geekily real. Thirlby, though, is so attractive, cool and self assured that she’s more likely to be that kid’s fantasy than his actual girlfriend.

The grand scale of the tragedy, along with the disruptive feel of these male/female pairs, left me wishing I’d skipped this one.

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