Review: ‘Orphans’

The inherent dramatic insularity of Lyle Kessler's play about two urban outcast brothers and the Mephistophelian gangster who transforms their hermetic world is driven by the inspired energies of its principal cast.

The inherent dramatic insularity of Lyle Kessler’s play about two urban outcast brothers and the Mephistophelian gangster who transforms their hermetic world is driven by the inspired energies of its principal cast.

Treat (Matthew Modine) and Phillip (Kevin Anderson) live in isolated squalor. Treat is a violent sociopath who ventures in to New York to steal and scavenge. Phillip is a recluse terrified of the world outside the house and the physically dominant older brother who keeps him there, a virtual prisoner of fear.

Control of self and one’s destiny is the gospel of Harold (Albert Finney), a hard-drinking mobster whom Treat lures from a saloon to the house one night with the intention of holding him hostage for ransom. The tables are quickly turned, however, when the mysterious but expansive gunman offers these destitute marginals an opportunity for big money and a spiffy new life.

Modine does all he can to dominate the picture in a tangibly physical performance that seems to use madness as its method and to succeed on these terms more often than not. Anderson portrays Phillip with great sensitivity and an aching pathos that’s free of mannered affectation. Finney permits himself to anchor the center between these two extremes.

Orphans

Production

Lorimar. Director Alan J. Pakula; Producer Alan J. Pakula; Screenplay Lyle Kessler; Camera Donald McAlpine; Editor Evan Lottman; Music Michael Small; Art Director George Jenkins

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1987. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Albert Finney Matthew Modine Kevin Anderson John Kellogg
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