Friday, December 10, 2010


I will admit that I went into Manic only because I’m trying to fill in the gaps I have in the filmography of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Lyle, a misfit teen who is sent to a junivile mental health institution after he beats another teen with a baseball bat. It is there that he meets a group of other angry, abused teens who have the same issues he does and is faced with a choice – learn to deal with your past or let it control your future. Despite the obvious Cuckoo’s Nest overtones, and general bleakness of the subject matter I quite enjoyed Manic, this is due in large part to the caliber of the acting talent in this film.

Manic was made before Zooey Deschanel or Joseph Gordon-Levitt were stars, so the big name in this movie at the time was Don Cheedle and rightly so – this is a performance that Cheedle hits out of the park. Cheedle plays shrink to the teenagers at the facility and his constant battle with himself at the teens mental state and attitude is captivating; at points I forgot I was watching Cheedle and began to think of him as Dr. Moore. This role could not have been an easy one, as the character is placed in the difficult position of having a natural state of pity for the events that caused these teens to become who they are, and facing the reality that they are still dangerous, damaged individuals.

Gordon-Levitt plays the main character in this piece, and watching him do his thing is pretty fascinating as well as Lyle expresses himself and his anger at life in largely non-verbal ways. While Lyle may scream, hit things, and do other attention getting stunts, more often than not Lyle speaks few words and says volumes with his actions. Gordon-Levitt seems to be acting right down to his very bones.

I have to give props to director Jordan Melamed. To get performances like these out of actors, even the great actors he has here, takes a talented hand. Without the guidance of a good director these performaces could stand alone as the only memorable points of this tale, but instead they blend beautifully into a larger picture and create a cohesive character piece. I’d love to see Melamed direct again.

Director: Jordan Melamed

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