OCCUPY, TEXAS (2016)

April 17, 2016

Dallas International Film Festival 2016

occupy texas Greetings again from the darkness. Can you go home again? The answer is usually complicated and often a factor of one’s own choices. What’s clear is that those choices leave a wide range of emotions in the wake. Writer Gene Gallerano and director Jeff Barry share the story of Beau Baker, a young man who 7 years ago, walked away from his comfortable suburban lifestyle and a bright future as a lawyer.

When first we meet Beau, he is sleeping on the streets of New York … awakened by a gentle foot nudge from his Uncle Nolan (Reed Birney, VP on “House of Cards”). Beau reluctantly agrees to return home when he is informed that his parents have recently died in a car crash. See, after Beau left home, he joined the Occupy Wall Street movement, and just never returned home after the movement fizzled.

Once back in Texas, Beau is informed that he is the executor of his parent’s estate, as well as the legal guardian for his two teenage sisters … much to the dismay of his Type-A Aunt Uma (Peri Gilpin). 17 year old Claire (Lorelei Linklater, Boyhood) and 13 year old Arden (newcomer Catherine Elvir) have mixed reactions to the reappearance of a brother they barely ever knew. Claire is angry and bitter, while Arden takes to Beau’s carefree ways and avoidance of responsibility.

The film was shot in Dallas, and offers peeks at the historic Texas Theatre, the Margaret Hunt Bridge, and St. John’s school. There is also a glimpse of the cultural clash between New York and Dallas, and it’s provided through Beau’s wardrobe and speech. Whether he can fit in with old acquaintances (including his old girlfriend Nikki Moore), and kick his carefree lifestyle to become a true role model for his sisters is the core of the film.

Writer Gene Gallerano also stars as Beau Baker, and does a nice job walking the line between selfish slacker and grown-up. The road from homeless street person to legal guardian doesn’t come with a handbook, and Beau makes most every mistake possible. On the bright side, we can tell pretty early on where the character and story is headed and that it’s going to be a feel good story of redemption – and overcoming the challenges that family brings. There are a couple of other interesting characters courtesy of the rarely-seen-these-days Janine Turner (as a bored housewife drawn to Beau), and Paul Benjamin (as a wise and generous neighbor). The inconsistent sound mix doesn’t affect our connection to Beau and especially Arden (in a terrific first on screen performance from young Miss Elvir). We really want what’s left of this family to come together.

watch the trailer:

 


BOYHOOD (2014)

July 3, 2014

boyhood Greetings again from the darkness. The trick here is to convey enough without ruining anything. No, it’s not a movie filled with twists and mystery, but rather it’s a journey unlike we have previously seen on screen. Director Richard Linklater is known for his fascination with time as a key element in movies. Of course, that’s obvious in his “Before” trilogy (the same two characters from 1995-2013), but think also of Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and Bernie. The passage of time is crucial in each, but Boyhood takes it to a whole new level.

Linklater and the 4 main characters have congregated and filmed a few days each year … for 12 years. We watch a fictionalized family mark the passage of time. You might be familiar with director Michael Apted’s excellent “Up” documentary series, where he reunites with his same group of people every 7 years. In Linklater’s experiment, we watch Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, Richard’s real life daughter) progress from adolescence to college age in under 3 hours. If you are a parent, you have experienced the quick passage of time when it comes to watching your kids grow. It’s incredibly emotional to watch a young, fresh faced Mason grow into a college aged young man right in front of us.

Linklater certainly got lucky with the two kids he cast at young ages. Their development and commitment to the project is the heart of the film. And if that weren’t enough, we also see Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their mom and dad through the years. Although they are separated when the film begins, we witness the changes each go through in their own lives. This is evolution, not creation. We don’t get a new actor at each stage, instead we witness the transformations of all four.

Patricia Arquette’s character is a solid mom, while at the same time attempting to figure out her own life. Her less-than-stellar choices in men have quite the influence on Mason and Samantha … the most dramatic being Ted (Steven Chester Prince) who sinks deeper into frustration, depression, alcoholism and anger. It’s a thankless role, but it’s a guy we have all known in life.

So the film is about parenthood, childhood, adulthood, and family relationships. It’s about the moments in time – the snapshots that become the fiber of our being. The shaping of people is an ongoing process and adult drama plays a role for all ages. As character flaws are exposed, choices are made that have a lasting impact.

The passage of time is relayed not just through the kids looking older, but also through the usage of technology, music and pop culture. All 4 of the main actors are excellent, but Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane are truly exceptional. Though the film is not a traditional narrative, it would be wonderful if both received some awards attention. They are that good.

A nod of appreciation should go out to IFC for taking the risk on such an unusual project. Linklater offers up an experiment WITH time, rather than an experiment IN time. Most studios would not be patient for 12 years, but their risk clearly pays off with something that must be experienced to be understood. My hope is that many will give this one a shot, and feel appreciative of all those involved for their willingness to put up funding … or just as importantly, their time.

watch the trailer: