On The Couch #22: An American Crime

Wow, I really wish I looked up the info on this movie before starting it. I went into it blind. I was up late and it was on TV. I missed the title, so I had no idea what I was watching, but it took place in the 60s and Bradley Whitford played a lawyer, which is enough for me to not reach for the remote.

Bradley Whitford is a JK Simmons level actor.

Then Ellen Page came on the screen. I thought I was in for a teenage coming of age story. Juno in the 60s! Yay!

I was so wrong.

I realized this as soon as Catherine Keener burned her first cigarette out on Page’s arm. Keener plays a woman so effed in the head crazy that Annie Wilkes from Misery has been quoted as saying “That lady’s nutty.” Keener’s kids are just as whacked as their mom. If you ever wondered where the children of the corn came from, it was this house.

This is not a date night movie. It’s also not a movie to watch while eating food. This movie is very raw and holds few punches in showing how Indiana mom Gertrude Baniszewski (Keener) and her kids physically and mentally tortured their neighbor Sylvia Wilkes (Page) without mercy. The only person scarier than Gertrude is her pint-sized son Johnny, who burns and beats Sylvia with a very creepy smile on his face. That kid still gives me nightmares.

It’s also a very good movie. Keener, Page and Whitford are all excellent. If this is the role that got Ellen Page noticed by Hollywood, I can understand.

The saddest thing about this movie is that it’s based on a true story. It scares me that people in real life can do to each other what the Baniszewski family did to Sylvia and Jenny Wilkes.

I recommend seeing this movie, just don’t expect me to watch it again in the near future.