Take Shelter (2011)

Why do we not take more pride in climate change? Humanity should brag about that shit. Our power is so great, we can override enormously complex worldwide weather systems because we feel like it. Do you realize how much natural inertia you have to overcome to affect a mass that big? It’s like pantsing Unicron. Humans RULE.

Seriously though, what idiot decided to call it global warming? You can’t name a phenomenon that unimaginably huge after its most salient defining characteristic. You just can’t. If you want people to give a damn the name has to be based on how it affects Joe the Plumber on Main Street, U.S.A. Calling it global warming turns every year in which winter doesn’t not happen into a three-month excuse for morons to say, “Global warming? FEELS PRETTY COLD TO ME!” The unforgivably accurate name “global warming” is the entire reason it took decades of every reputable scientist in the world agreeing it was real before people accepted it as anything more than a cockamamie hypothesis akin to saying we live inside the Matrix or the moon is made of cheese.

Global warming is gonna kill us all but that won’t stop idiots from shouting “Don’t seem so warm to me!” as they freeze to death in July. I bring this up merely because it’s mid-October and the temperature hit 75 degrees in Central Park today, not because it has anything to do with Take Shelter. OR DOES IT?

(It doesn’t.)

Sometimes, clouds look like shapes. That one, for example, looks just like the End of Days.

The story: Take Shelter is the somber tale of a hard-working Ohio family man named Curtis. The course of his largely happy life is forever altered when he begins having strange dreams of a vast and terrible storm, dreams so vivid he comes to believe they portend some imminent cataclysm. Unable to disabuse himself of his beliefs, he faces the daunting task of ensuring his family’s safety, even as his visions force him to question his sanity.

You know what would make this even MORE fun? If we were all in the basement.

Biggest letdown: Man fuck this movie. Fuck its tender, nuanced depiction of familial intimacy and its simple, unadorned writing. Fuck it’s lonely, sweeping vistas and tasteful special effects. And especially fuck Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain who play Curtis and his wife. They can both suck a dick for being so sincere and committed and believable. I just have a hard time enjoying a story that is so imaginative yet so grounded in genuine human emotion. The worst part is how expertly they keep you guessing, right to the end, about whether Curtis is a nut or a prophet. Fucking TERRIBLE.

Oh BARF this is unbearable.

Why you should watch: You got that it was opposite day there, right? Take Shelter is a really lovely movie. It’s funny it’s packaged as a psychological thriller because, while psychology (and psychiatry) factor heavily, there isn’t much in the way of thrills. It’s a slow, methodical boil, with just a few choice morsels of freakiness sprinkled in. At its heart this is a story about a family healing from a hinted-at trauma. It just so happens they face another crisis – the possible loss of the man of the house to mental illness – while their previous wounds are still fresh.

I don’t have any real complaints, but I will say that for all its beauty and the truly impressive work of the two leads, there are times when Take Shelter takes itself a bit too seriously. Comic relief isn’t necessary, but I would have liked a few more active scenes. Maybe more detailed disaster preparation or something.  Everyone loves watching a project go from planning to execution; it’s why TLC and The Discovery Channel still exist. I respect writer-director Jeff Nichols’ choices and he’s come out with a fine film, but I would have enjoyed even a brief opportunity to see Curtis bask in the simple pleasure of a job well done.

It’s not that I need tips on preparing for the apocalypse. That’s crazy. I just need tips on preparing for the apocalypse.

Memorable Moment: Curtis’ obsession takes him to some considerably dark places, to the point where you start to think, even if the world IS coming to end, he should really try to relax and act normal. He reaches fevered levels of hysteria in several scenes that could easily be described as memorable but my moment wasn’t any of those. For me it’s when his wife confronts him after discovering he ripped out their truck’s alternator and installed it in the storm shelter. (I’m not a mechanic but I assume car not go without alternator.) Instead of a lecture – this is, after all, the point at which marital stereotypes dictate she should threaten to leave him – she comes at with him with a plan. It’s so refreshing to find a movie in which people who love each other don’t immediately abandon the trust they’ve developed over years of marriage at the first sign of trouble, even when the trouble is very serious.

Choice quote: “Is anyone seeing this?”

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4 Responses to “Take Shelter (2011)”

  1. […] Take Shelter – I was quite taken. […]

  2. […] multi-twist denouement makes everyone go what the fuck. This dual approach works in a drama like Take Shelter, where the psychological conflict generated by the two possibilities is the chief selling point. […]

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