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James White

James_White_posterJames doesn’t have his shit together.  He’s a young New Yorker that drinks too much, gets in to trouble, is rude to everyone he meets, and doesn’t care about anything or anyone except himself, and his mother.  James doesn’t have a job. He sleeps on his mother’s couch and takes care of her.  She has cancer, and she is battling the disease every day.  James will do anything for her.

The film opens with the family sitting shiva for James fathers death.  His father has moved on many years ago and re-married.  James is forced to interact with the people coming to visit his ailing mother during this time.  He doesn’t have a lot of patience with people, and orders everyone out after his fathers ex-wife puts on their wedding video at his mothers house.  He’s super protective of his mother.

His mother has tried everything to get her son to make something of himself, but he’s just stuck in a rut.  He’s extremely self-destructive and turns to drugs and alcohol to escape the problems that plague him.  He can’t find anything else to hold on to.

James White does an amazing job of living through the cracks of James life.  We live in his world over the course of a matter of months, but we only live in it a day at a time, and then fast forward a few weeks at a time as well.  People he meets come and go without any really understanding of what they mean to James, or how they affect his life.  That’s kind of the power of the film.  People come and go…his mother remains. The one constant.

Chris Abbott who plays James is fantastic in the lead role.  He’s a complete asshole, and an unlike-able character, but the love he feels for his mother shines through during even the darkest moments of his life. We end up feeling for him.  Cynthia Nixon plays James ailing mother.  She’s a cancer survivor herself, and wow….she’s got Oscar written all over her for this role.

What I think works the best is that the film doesn’t attempt to make us understand everything about these characters.  It attempts to make us understand enough about the situation they are in, and how they adapt or actually fail throughout the course of the film.  We also live in this New York City world.  It’s a cramped, claustrophobic worldview and only once during the course of that film do we escape that world and see how James may be able to live away from the turmoil he faces.  It’s a film that is troubling to watch at times, but very understanding of what it is trying to achieve

Grade: A