Monday, February 20, 2023

Recasting 2009 (supporting): "Animal Kingdom"

First off, this movie was first released in early 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival, not in 2009. But since I wanted two movies from 2010, and Animal Kingdom was filmed in early 2009, it seemed the more natural choice to bump up a year. Had they wanted, this film could've easily been completed and given a wide release in late 2009. 

I've been interested for some time what it would be like to see Meryl in a role where she was the head of a crime family. I figured it would or could have been the kind of movie we'd see Meryl finally team up with Martin Scorsese. The matriarch of some wing of the Italian mafia, for example. As it turns out, Australian director David Michôd decided to write a screenplay loosely based on a real-life Melbourne crime family, and ended making one whopper of a great film.

The story follows the Cody family in Melbourne. Teenage Josh "J" Cody's mother has just died from an overdose, so he calls his grandma, Janine (Jacki Weaver) who invites him to move in. Janine's three sons and their close family friend run illegal jobs related to drugs and armed robbery. Cops are constantly watching the family and almost inevitably, J pulled into the shenanigans by his uncles. One detective (portrayed by Guy Pearce) tries to get to J before he sort of "turns" to the dark side. Knowing that J has talked to the police, Janine essentially communicates to the family lawyer that J needs to be wiped out. But J outsmarts his psychopath uncle "Pope" and ends up shooting him in the head before he can harm J. 

Organized crime families freak me out. Certainly the only experience I have with them is from what I've seen on TV or the movies. I think it's the fact that you can never quite tell where you stand with anyone. There's almost no sure thing in regard to trust, and you never know when someone's out to get you. Sometimes you might have to act in order to not be acted upon. And violently. There's definitely a lot of this in this movie, particularly with Janine. Quick side note: Janine's character's nickname is "Smurf," which is funny for an actor as short as Jacki Weaver, who's 4'11". I can't imagine Meryl, standing at 5'6" would be believable as someone who was nicknamed after a tiny creature, unless they got actors who were way taller than her to provide the contrast (which I'd prefer not to imagine since I like this cast so much). Unless they had her barefoot and everyone else wore lifts. Or maybe she'd just be someone who always like to wear blue all the time and it'd be more about the color versus the height. ANYWAY, I love how Janine has to sort of be calculating or vaguely pretending as a character a lot of the time on screen. She's outwardly very loving and affectionate (including creepy extended kisses on the mouth with her adult sons). But when it comes to business, she's ruthless. All with a smile on her face. 

Love that scene. Animal Kingdom received overwhelming rave reviews from critics. It's got a whopping 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and holds a score of 83 on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim." It basically swept the Australian Film Institute Awards, while Weaver managed to break through with numerous North American critics groups and awards bodies. She won L.A. and the National Board of Review awards for Best Supporting Actress, and scored her first Oscar nomination that year. As an Australian indie film, not surprisingly it wasn't seen much outside of Australia. I guarantee it would've been had Meryl been in the role. But Weaver's brilliant portrayal broke her into Hollywood, and she earned a second Oscar nomination over two years later, for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. 


  1. Great choice, I have heard great things about the movie and Jackie in particular. It reminds me a little of your reimagined 1990 role in "The Grifters" in it being a crime family who go to some really dark places.

    I was considering the role of Mrs Weiss in "Previous" played startling well by Mariah Carey. This is based on the fact Lee Daniels originally offered the part to Helen Mirren. Ultimately though I didn't feel it was a was right to change the original line up.

    I will choose the role of "Charley" in "A Single Man" opposite Colin First. I remember loving both the book and movie although the character becomes a lot more glamorous on screen!

    I think Meryl would have worked very well as the best friend of the central character, having great chemistry with Colin and giving them a chance to have some great scenes together. It was the role I felt Colin deserves Best Actor for as he does wonderful work, and Julianne Moore was also terrific.

    1. Oh wow what a great idea re Precious. Hadn't thought of it.

      And I totally considered A Single Man! I loved the movie too, just didn't quite feel right compared to Animal Kingdom. That latter ticked a lot of boxes for me. Agreed about Colin deserving the Oscar for that role.