By: Movie Snurb (Two Beers) –
Stronger is about the true story of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhall). He went to support his ex-girlfriend while she ran the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Two pressure cooker bombs were set off at the end of the finish line of the marathon and Jeff happened to be standing close to one of them. Both of his legs had to be amputated and in the process of healing he becomes the symbol for hope and “Boston Strong.” The film focuses on Jeff’s recovery and how it affects his family and his ex-girlfriend/girlfriend Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany), along with Jeff having to grapple with becoming this national symbol that he doesn’t want any part of.
The real Jeff Bauman.
Jake Gyllenhaal is possibly the most transformative actor in Hollywood today. Gyllenhaal’s ability to go from a ripped boxer, to a Mountain Climber guide, to a gaunt sociopathic “Night Crawler”; to a double leg amputee who is grappling with being a symbol for hope & “Boston Strong” while recovering from having his legs blown off, is truly astounding. This could’ve been a one-dimensional boring character, who really could’ve been unlikable. Gyllenhaal takes Jeff Bauman and completely fleshes him out into a multileveled character. The film and Gyllenhaal does such a brilliant job with Bauman’s real character arc that by the end of the film you feel changed as well, and it’ll bring you to tears. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favorite actors and I haven’t seen such transformation in any of his other performances as he achieves in Stronger.
Not only is Gyllenhaal great, but the entire cast does a fantastic job. Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley (Bauman’s Girlfriend) gives a great performance, as her character has to try and deal with standing between Jeff who doesn’t want to be this symbol of hope for the nation and his family who want to push him in front of every camera they can. She gives a very tender and vulnerable performance as much as Jake Gyllenhaal does. Miranda Richardson as Patty Bauman (Jeff’s mother) is equally brilliant as the mother who is proud of her son but also doesn’t totally understand him and his want to be left alone by the media. This was definitely an actors’ film and with the material they were given they were able to all give brilliant performances.
John Pollono’s script is great, finding the vulnerable moments and instead of exploiting them allowing us to experience them and in turn better understand everything that is going on in not only Jeff Bauman’s universe but with Erin Hurley and Patty Bauman and his family and friends. Not only is the script great, but David Gordon Green’s directing is also on point for this film. He also chooses to not shy away from the difficult to watch moments. Green knows exactly when to pull away from the emotion and deliver a very impactful ending that truly pays off. This could’ve been a very cheesy affair, however, the excellent directing, writing, and acting make this a powerful must-see film.
I really liked this film; however, it feels slightly more bloated than its 116 minute run-time. There are a few scenes when the film tends to drag; however, the emotional weight of the film plus the powerful acting more than make up for the weakest part of the film.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives arguably his best performance to date; I won’t be surprised if an Oscar nomination is in his future. Not only Gyllenhaal, but Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, and the rest of the supporting cast take this film that could’ve been a cheesy made for T.V. film and make it a powerful film about recovery, heroism, and love.
Stronger (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: any time you hear “Boston Strong”
Take a Drink: every time they’re drinking on screen.
Do a Shot: every time Jeff’s family is yelling at one another.
Do a Shot: every time you cry or almost cry (be honest.)