Starring: Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Benjamin McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Celia Weston, Scott Wilson
Directed by: Phil Morrison
Alright, I'll confess: I was first interested in seeing this movie for little other reason than it's Ryan Atwood's first movie. Benjamin McKenzie was doing the talk show circuit in the late summer to promote this movie I'd never heard of, and I figured it might be worth a shot. It was getting some good reviews as a mature, quiet movie, serving as counter-programming to the mindless action movies being shoved into the last moments of the summer blockbuster season (I'm looking at you Stealth and The Duke's of Hazzard). That's pretty much all I knew about the movie, that it was quiet, had some critical acclaim, and featured Ryan from The O.C., none of which was enough to drag me into the art house theatre for the week or two it was playing.
Then, Amy Adams started getting a lot of buzz on the award show circuit for her role in the movie, which reminded me that I wanted to see it... without ever bothering to figure out what the movie was about. I read some reviews, looked at some synopsis for the film, checked out the DVD release date, but never really figured out what the movie was about. But, I was on an Oscar-watching binge, so I'd already decided that I'd rent it, and then find out what it's about.
Why all this autobiographical intro? Because if I only spent my time in this review talking about what the film was about... it'd be over two paragraphs ago. Which is probably why I couldn't quite figure out what the movie was about from the things I'd read about it before seeing it, because it's about nothing. Nada. And not in that clever, Seinfeldian way of being about nothing. For the truly curious, here is a quick synopsis of this film that most of you have (understandably) not heard about: the film follows Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz), a Chicago independent art-dealer, to small-town North Carolina, home to an eccentric local artist (Frank Hoyt Taylor), and, coincidentally, the family of her new husband George (Alessandro Nivola). It is during this visit to rural America where Madeleine meets her new in-laws, mother-in-law Peg (Celia Weston), father-in-law Eugene (Scott Wilson), brother-in-law Johnny (McKenzie), and Johnny's pregnant wife Ashley (Adams).
That's it. The "plot". If you're thinking that I've only identified the film's characters and setting and left out the plot, I can see where you'd think that. But... I haven't. A lady from artsy Chicago-by-way-of-England goes to the red state heartland to meet her quirky, homesy extended family, and we get a glimpse at a week of their lives. Their normal, uneventful lives. There are minor family conflicts, some fish-out-of-water observances, a minor tragic event, and then the movie ends. The glimpses into their small-town lives feel authentic, the characters are somewhat interesting and not so quirky that they cease to resemble human beings that may exist somewhere other than a screenwriter's imagination (unlike, say, the characters in The Good Girl). Amy Adams infuses the film with an infectious energy with her portrayal of the enthusiastic, but simple, Ashley, without an ounce of guile or irony. It's a fun character, that dangles close to annoyance without ever quite falling off the ledge. The rest of the cast acquit themselves well in their characters, providing a solid look into the rhythms and concerns of small-town life.
Unfortunately, characters and setting do not a movie make. The movie doesn't even delve deep enough into its characters to earn the distinction of being a character study. Small developments in the movie go nowhere, and the movie just ends without any kind of resolution, development, or statement. Sure, this replicates life, where things rarely resemble a 100 minute movie, but this is, in fact, a movie. Most lives aren't that interesting to support a feature film, and neither are the lives featured in this movie. In short, while I can still provide no satisfying summary about what the movie is about, I can sum it all up for you very simply, and very succinctly: *yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww
Broken Flowers (2005)
The O.C.- Season One
The Upside of Anger (2005)