Logan Kenny’s review published on Letterboxd:
my three favourite moments.
1. when Benny insists on giving Sammy the camera. you get so much from Rogen’s desperation as an actor, the way he tries to convey indirectly how much sorrow he feels by giving this kid a dream camera. the writing and acting is ingenious in this sequence, as Rogen has to sidestep directly addressing the cause of the boy’s pain, while conveying to the audience that he understands everything that’s going through his mind. LaBelle is outrageously good too in this moment, I’ll get to another bit of his in a second, but it’s Rogen’s scene. the desperation in his body language as he pulls Sammy in for a cuddle, the face he makes as he realises that it might be the last time he ever hugs him like this, and his final showcase as the “Uncle Benny” that Sammy used to know, when he slips the money back to him and makes a joke about keeping the change, all perfect expressions from Rogen. did not know he had this in him. in the movie for such a comparatively low amount of time and almost steals it for me.
2. LaBelle’s entire performance, but particularly one moment in the middle. this kid is a star. Spielberg introduced the world at large to Ariana DeBose with an Oscar winning (and Oscar worthy) performance with West Side Story in 2021. LaBelle might not have gotten the same awards or levels of critical reception, but he’s just as good. this is one of the all time great Spielberg directed performances. without him being as good as he is, so much of the film’s power would be lost. the aforementioned moment is shared with Williams as his mother, and it’s a reaction so fucking good that it’s absurd he never got any traction in Lead Actor awards season. Sammy’s just been hit in the back by his mum, and he storms off into his room. when she comes to him in distress, desperate to take care of him and make up for the pain she’s caused, she reaches her hand to his back wound. suddenly, he turns around, and for an infinitesimal moment, he looks like he could hurt her. it looks like he’s experiencing a cosmic form of rage, that kind that washes over you in situations of significant distress, that you have to shut down almost immediately because unleashing it would cause too much hurt. you feel all of his pent-up rage, distress and sorrow within a second or two. he reminded me of myself when I’ve briefly lost control of my internal emotions, when I get close to becoming scary in my level of rage. of course, right afterwards, Williams’ best scene in the movie happens, where she crawls on the floor overcome with guilt about all her choices and mistakes. a double dosage of immaculate acting.
3. the fact that Sammy and his bully (who is called Logan, thanks for that Steven) definitely should have fucked. insane levels of chemistry between them. loved all the scenes between Sammy and his incredibly funny Christian girlfriend, but that last erotically charged (?) and devastating exchange between them in the hallway is so palpable. I felt the desire to make them kiss, like young lesbians would do with their Barbie dolls.
I’m sure that there will be many thoughts to come, and that’s not even getting into the emotion of the final scene with David Lynch’s John Ford, the nuances of Paul Dano’s performance as a loving but dismissive father or any of the other monumental elements. but what’s very important to me is that it’s the first time since my partner got sick in 2020 that I’ve felt the excitement of dreaming about filmmaking. watching it made me feel a joy towards the dream I’ve held for most of my life again. an excitement towards my future instead of just trying to sludge through my present as an artist and as a man. I will never have the words to be able to express how thankful I am for that. also it made me call my mum, who I saw a lot of in Williams. Spielberg’s best since 2002, one of his very best films ever. cried so much.