The Big Year – Review
David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) directs this touching lighthearted adventure film about three men at different stages of life competing and connecting over a common love for birds. Frankel is an accomplished director in films of this ilke. They’re not really considered comedies. They’re more about relationships without the slapstick. Any comedy in the film is realistic and natural, which to me is the best kind of comedy and what most of us in the real world can relate to.
In birding, a Big Year is seeing or hearing as many different species of birds as possible in a calendar year. Three men pursue the Birder of the Year title: Kenny Bostick, who’s seen a record 732 in a past big year, Stu Preissler, newly retired, and Brad Harris, who narrates the story. Life gets in the way: Bostick’s wife wants a baby, Stu’s firm needs him for sensitive negotiations, and Brad, divorced and underemployed at 36, has an encouraging mom and a disapproving dad. They criss-cross the U.S. (including a trip to Alaska’s westernmost island), follow migration patterns, and head for storms that force birds to ground. Who will win, at what cost, and with what rewards?
The Big Year to me, is a big win. It’s not a 10 or even a 9, but it’s one of those films that just feels good. It’s about people. It’s about hardship. It’s about life. The incredible cast flows… and what an ensemble. Not being a huge fan of Jack Black, I missed this in its theatrical run. I feel he is way too often type cast, and its only in roles like this that we truly get to see his natural talent. Steve Martin and Owen Wilson are great. I’m particularly a big fan of Martin’s more serious work. The cast doesn’t stop there though. The supporting cast includes Rosamund Pike, Kevin Pollak, JoBeth Williams, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Jim Parsons, Angelica Houston, and Rashida Jones (whom I’m liking more and more). A whole lotta like!
I think the relationship between Black and Dennehy (son and father) hit me the hardest. It’s one a lot of people from my generation can relate to, especially those pursuing dreams and hobbies that don’t really stack up to anything in older generational thinking. It’s probably the most powerful part of the film to me, and one I’ll always be able to relate to. Dennehy has such a commanding presence and plays the father role perfectly. It was hard not to get choked up in the end when he finally embraces his son’s passion.
Awesome performances, great cinematography, good writing, and a fresh topic. The Big Year is an excellent film to sit back and relax to. A very comfortable, heart warming hour and a half that will have you smiling in the end. Definitely a very underrated film of 2011. At the very least, rent or Netflix The Big Year, because even at a 7.5, I still highly recommend it.