Starring Gretchen Mol, Tim Blake Nelson, Sam Waterston, Glenn Close, Corey Stoll, Kristen Stewart, Gloria Reuben, Michael Kenneth Williams, K. Todd Freeman
What begins with a riveting opening scene, Anesthesia quickly begins to mirror recent ensemble drama Men, Women & Children by Jason Reitman. Anesthesia is written and directed by actor Tim Blake Nelson (O’ Brother Where Art Thou, The Good Girl). The film which explores a small community in New Jersey begins like a puzzle but eventually lends itself more toward a soap opera style experience. With so many characters played by so many famous faces, this script tries to develop too many people in a short 90 minutes. Mol (3:10 to Yuma) is the standout of the group, while Stewart (Twilight) feels like the most unguided out of place performance.
Adam Zarrow (Nelson) meets with his father Prof. Walter Zarrow (Waterston) to vent about his wife’s health scare. Walter is contemplating retiring from his beloved position at the local college and seeking other adventures with his wife (Close). Across town Sarah (Mol) knows her husband (Stoll) isn’t in China working, she is sure he is cheating on her but keeps this secret from their two little girls who give her flack over the daily amount of alcohol she consumes. Jeffrey (Williams) has scheduled an intervention for his childhood friend Joe (Freeman) who is hooked on hard drugs, but Joe isn’t going to the hospital easy and this isn’t the first time he has tried to get clean.
Its biggest downfall is feeding into racial, social and archetypal stereotypes that other films have already covered.
“I used to believe in nothing. Now I believe in everything,” Walter tells his son looking for inspiration. Walter is the happiest person in the script and it’s his smile and light that seems to touch and effect almost every character in the film. Not every character has a scene together, however there is a circle and connection between everyone in the script. The one person that doesn’t fit is Stewart’s character who only interacts with Waterston and a curling iron. After such a powerful and award winning performance in The Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart returns to the self-loathing type of role that has negatively stereotyped her career.
Mol’s desperate housewife character was the most interesting because it offers up the harshest reflection of the likely target audience. An honest conversation between mom and her 12-year-old daughter with an attitude is one of the films best moments. Anesthesia moves from a Reitman type script to more of a Paul Haggis (Crash) creation without the audience really paying attention. Its biggest downfall is feeding into racial, social and archetypal stereotypes that other films have already covered. Still the film is gripping because of its editing and tragic subject matter. There isn’t anything so great in here to stick in your mind or make it a recommendation for friends, yet it isn’t a dull or boring piece of drama and shows an impressive growth of Nelson behind the camera.
A well toned dramatic ensemble that plays more like a highbrow soap opera.