EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|ARCADIA (director/writer: Olivia Silver; screenwriter: based on the short film “Little Canyon”; cinematographer: Eric Lin; editor: Jennifer Lee; music: The Low Anthem; cast: John Hawkes (Tom), Ryan Simpkins (Greta), Kendall Toole (Caroline), Ty Simpkins (Nat), Mary Pat Gleason (Agnes, waitress); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Julien Favre/ Silenn Thomas; Film Movement; 2012)|
|"The story is too slight to
go the full distance of 3,000 miles cross-country
without this viewer losing some interest."
by Dennis Schwartz
feature indie film as writer-director has a few good
moments of domestic volatility but the story is too
slight to go the full distance of 3,000 miles
cross-country without this viewer losing some
interest. It's a road trip movie, shot on
Super-16, about a dysfunctional family leaving at the
crack of dawn their New England home to move to
Arcadia, California, to find paradise. Testy dad, Tom
(John Hawkes), packs into his older dented family station wagon the
12-year-old Greta (Ryan Simpkins), the cynical older
teenage daughter Caroline (Kendall Toole) and the 9-year-old Nat (Ty Simpkins, real-life sibling of
Ryan). During the long ride dad in upbeat moments
tells stories, boasts about his new West Coast job and
paints a pretty picture of the house they will live
in. The kids believe mom will join them somewhere on
the trip to California, but as they trek on grow wary
when unable to reach her by phone at her sister's
Things are seen through the
eyes of the still childish and innocent Greta, who
becomes increasingly alarmed that she can't contact
mom by phone and soon resents dad's violent mood
swings and openly challenges him for lying. While Nat
remains excited about visiting the Grand Canyon and
Caroline ponders who will be her next boyfriend.
Warning: spoiler in the next two
The ride becomes most
unpleasant when Tom gets out of control over a number
stressful situations. Tension reaches max at the Grand
Canyon, when the argumentative dad refuses to pay the
$49 entry fee to see the national treasure and reneges
on his promise to Nat to visit the site. This leaves
Nat crying and Greta becomes so upset that dad kicks
her out of the car on a deserted road, but soon comes
to his senses and returns to pick her up. They
eventually reach their California destination after
several more unpleasant situations, and things take on
an eerie sense of normalcy when they all realize mom
is unable to join them, dad begins work at his new job
and the kids go to school.
John Hawkes gives a complex
performance channeling both the "good and bad dad,"
Simpkins gets our attention as the confused innocent,
totting around a bunny doll, who seems lost on the
journey and in need of a few hugs from dad instead of
all the grief she gets. The actors make the most out
of the material they were given, and the pic works
best as a dicey coming-of-age story. The director does
a good job letting us see how the kids, under trying
circumstances, must learn about life the hard way.
REVIEWED ON 7/11/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ