Madtown is a powerful film that can inspire feelings of dread halfway through it because you just know it's not going to end well. It doesn't. I totally understand that some stories simply don't have happy endings which is a reflection of life itself, but this was a story that I really wanted to have a happy ending because it felt like the main cast all deserved it. Life is hard no matter how you slice it and for these people to find happiness in the chaos of the every day, well, it makes sense to hold on to that for as long as possible and share it with those who can appreciate it.
Denny (Milo Ventimiglia plays the older version, Brett Castro plays younger Denny) is a character that's hard not to like. Phenomenally played by Milo, Denny is a bit awkward, but a nice guy that seems like he'd be really cool to hang out with. It's why he's a bit awkward that makes this story so compelling. Denny's sister Madison (Amanda Aday plays the older version, Kinsley Funari plays the younger version) is also well played by Amanda and Kinsley and is such a tragic character. The older sister of Denny, she does her best to protect him even making a life changing sacrifice to do just that which ultimately leads to her doom. It's really sad, but she wasn't a bad person, but she was horribly affected by bad circumstances that all starts with her parents, made even worse by the constant sexual and physical abuse she had to deal with in jail. Madtown is a film that makes a strong argument for people not being allowed to have children at all unless they pass a psych eval and a drug and alcohol screening but I digress. Denny and Madison's family was horribly abusive and dysfunctional causing chaos in the children's lives that lead to tragedy. Art imitating life, this leads to the children trying to find ways to cope or get crushed under the weight of the dysfunction.
Similar to life, the film shows how people not blood related to you can be more important and caring than blood relations. Denny found that. He was happy. Madison was paroled after doing 20 years for murdering their parents* but didn't give herself enough time to heal, dispel the jailhouse mentality or understand that her brother found happiness. Madison in her selfishness wanted Denny to uproot his life and move to Chicago with her, which he obviously had no desire to do. But Madison didn't care. Her attitude was "what I say goes" as if she was his mother as opposed to his sister. Actually, I'd go so far to say that Madison had become similar to her mother in dealing with Denny. It doesn't end well for her. This section of the film is extremely well written. Actually, the film in general is very well written but this section stands out to me because of some of the nuances of the scenes. The shock on Madison's face when she saw Denny's comedy album collection is a great example. The feelings of hurt and defiance on Madison's face when she arrived at the birthday party is another great example. It was clear that Madison felt isolated, excluded, because Denny was happy with people other than her. It didn't matter that she was invited, it didn't matter that everyone was welcoming to her. Madison's mental state was still locked behind bars leaving her feeling as if she could never have that life, the people present were being fake and couldn't be trusted. Denny's love interest, Sarah (Rachel Melvin) who was also hosting the party was dissed hard by Madison almost as if Madison was Denny's lover instead of his sister. Reacting to the competition. Madison really believed that Denny didn't need anyone but her. It's disturbing how that type of intensity toward a sibling has a incest implication attached to it. Amanda Aday really played her part well as did Rachel Melvin.
Madtown is a really good film that I enjoyed a lot. Yes, the ending is sad but there are glimmers of hope and yes, it's a tragic film because it shows an example of what can happened when children are abused by their parents and when idiot school administrators are clueless in helping kids that are the victims of bullies. But Denny's decisions showed that there was still hope in spite of it all. Maybe there's hope for all of us if we only take time to see it. 5*.