Affliction, based on the novel by Russell Banks, was very interesting, mysterious, and kept you guessing up until it was over. The actors/actresses portrayed in the movie was Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte), Wade’s girlfriend Margie Fogg (Sissy Spacek), Glen Whitehouse (James Coburn), Rolfe Whitehouse (William Defoe), Lillian (Mary Beth Hurt), Jill (Brigid Tierney), and Jack Hewit (Jim True). The movie begins by Rolfe Whitehouse (William Defoe) narrating the movie about a phone call he received from his brother, Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte), the night after Halloween, which was what lead up to Wade’s mysterious disappearance.
Using a narrative approach in the movie was an excellent choice for the plot. It made you feel as if something was going to take place in this town, but no clues were given. In the movie Defoe not only does the narration, but also plays Wade’s (Nick Nolte) brother. Defoe’s character grows up, moves away and becomes a schoolteacher. This was something different for Defoe, but by using a quite and soft-spoken tone it made his character fit smoothly into the plot. Flashing back to the night of Halloween. Wade is driving Jill his daughter (Bridgid Tierney) to her ex-school’s Halloween festival.
It is obvious; Jill does not want to be there. She feels that her father is very confused and mixed-up. After Wade and Jill get into an argument, Jill calls her mom to come get her. When Lillian (Mary Beth Hurt) Wade’s ex-wife arrives, it is obvious that Wade doesn’t want Lillian (Mary Beth Hurt) to have custody of Jill. Which caused him to seek lawyer for custody of Jill. During the movie Wade Whitehouse states his love for his daughter many times. It would have helped to have flashback scenes, to feel Wade’s emotions and urging to be a good father.
The setting takes place during the winter in a small town in upstate New Hampshire. The director made a good move by using the effect of winter and snow, which contributed to the character of Wade Whitehouse. The gloominess in the midst of winter made Wade’s depression, loneliness, and uncertainty about his life come together. Although, you would of thought that Jack Nicholson would of played in this type of movie, but Nick Nolte came through did his self-justice by portraying Wade Whitehouse in the movie. Unlike, when he played in 48 hours with Eddie Murphy.
The movie suddenly takes a turn when Wade as sheriff begins to get involved in his job when Jack Hewit (Jim True) a hunting expert, takes a rich man named Trombly hunting, who was accidentally shot and killed. Wade begins to discuss these events with his girlfriend Margie (Sissy Spacek) who works at the local pub, but she tries to convince Wade that Trombly died, in the result of an accident. In spite of everything that is going on, Wade asks Margie to marry him, and wants her to meet his parents. Wade and Margie drive out to his parents’ house the next day. When they get they get in side the house there is no heat.
Wade calls for his parents, but notices his father Glenn Whitehouse (James Coburn) drunk and just sitting in a chair in front of the television. While Glenn gets up to get another drink Wade introduces Margie, and asks his where is mom. Glenn said, she’s taking a nap upstairs, and he will go get her. Glenn comes back and tells Wade and Margie that she is coming. Unwilling to wait, Wade goes upstairs and finds his mother frozen to death. At this point in the movie you begin to understand the kind of abuse that had been enforced on the Whitehouse family by Glenn Whitehouse (James Colburn).
Glenn Whitehouse portrayed by James Colburn was very well acted. The use of the whiskey bottle as a symbol was well thought out and helped to feel and see the dysfunctional problems within the Whitehouse family. Wade’s mentally capabilities really start to take a turn for the worst. He loses his job as sheriff and handy man. By now he is convinced that Jack murdered Trombly. In the mean, Margie and Glenn are at the farm, sitting at the kitchen table discussing Glenn’s point of view on how men should not let women run them. But it is then when she notices Glenn put salt on his hand, lick it and take a shot of Whiskey.
Then Wade comes in and complains about the toothache he has had throughout the movie. He finds a pair of pliers and pulls out the tooth. Then takes a drink of the whiskey, but that’s not what Margie noticed. She noticed when Wade got the salt placed it on his hand, licked it and then took a shot of Whiskey. Margie realized it was over between her and Wade. In the next scene, Wade picks up Jill from her mom’s. While driving back to town Wade wants to get Jill something to eat, but she continues telling her father, she wants to go back home. At this point Wade begins to get angry, and realizes he needs a drink.
They end up going to the pub where Wade gets furious with the bartender. They leave and head out to Wade’s father’s house. Upon arriving Margie is packing her things to leave. Wade tries to force Margie to stay and Jill feels Wade is hurting Margie, so Jill starts hitting her dad. When Wade pushes Jill off of him, he hurts her. Margie grabs Jill; they get in the car and leave. Wade decides he is going after them, using his fathers (James Colburn) truck. Glenn doesn’t want Wade to use his truck. What happens in the next scene is very shocking and unbelievable.
While Wade is walking toward the barn to get the truck, Glenn follows him and starts verbally abusing him just like in Wade childhood. Wade goes into the barn to get into the truck, but Glenn comes up behind Wade and hits him over the head with a Whiskey bottle, Wade turns around and hits Glenn with a shotgun. Wade raises the gun, pulls the trigger, to find that the gun is empty. After realizing the gun was empty, Wade says, TRICK it was just a joke. But it was too late, Glenn died. Wade picked up his father put him on a workbench, poured gasoline over him, and burned his body.
The movie ended with Rolfe Whitehouse (William Defoe) telling how he wanted to be there to help Wade through his troubled times. Wade ended up killing Jack Hewitt for the murder of Trombly. However, the most fascinating part was Trombly’s death turned out to be an actual accident, and the conspiracy within that small New Hampshire town was in fact a fantasy within Wade Whitehouse’s imagination. In conclusion, we can ask if Wade’s abuse as a child really happened. After all Wade was the only one having flash backs about his childhood.
What really got my attention was the scene after Wade and Rolfe’s mother died. The two brothers were sitting in the barn on a bale of hay, discussing childhood incidents, Rolfe asked; Wade, if he was positive about some of the abuse that was suppose to take place during their childhood. Rolfe couldn’t remember anything that Wade claimed had happened. I do feel however that the father was an alcoholic and the mother took a lot of abuse from her husband, Glenn Whitehouse. If you noticed when Wade had flashbacks you never seen him get hit. So was this too a fixation within Wade Whitehouse’s imagination.