DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
NATURAL SELECTION (director/writer: Robbie Pickering; cinematographer: Steve Calitri; editor: Michelle Tesoro; music: Curt Schneider; cast: Rachael Harris (Linda White), Matt O'Leary (Raymond Mansfield), Jon Gries (Peter), Gayland Williams (Sheila), John Diehl (Abe White); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul Jensen/Brion Hambel; Cinema Guild; 2011)

"Lame indie comedy."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Robbie Pickering, in his feature film debut, is writer-director of this lame indie comedy, that for some reason that escapes me was a crowd-pleaser on the festival circuit.

It opens with a quote from Genesis: "and God said to Onan: Thou shalt not spill thy seed in vain."

The 40ish Linda White (Rachael Harris) is a sexually repressed devout Christian housewife living a life of quiet desperation in the outskirts of Houston, in a place called Jersey Village, whose overbearing devout older husband Abe (John Diehl), of 25 years, won’t sleep with the barren woman because according to scripture sex is a sin without procreation. When her sneaky hubby has a stroke while donating to a local fertility sperm bank by watching a porn movie and jerking off, wifey feels tricked by his ruse to get sexual pleasure in such an artificial way. But as a Christian she forgives his infidelity and decides to honor his last request to see the secret son Raymond (Matt O’Leary) sired 24 years ago through sperm donations. Linda tricks her way into looking at the clinic's records and discovers the son Raymond is living in Tampa, Fla. The earnest frumpy looking Linda drives there to meet him.

Raymond turns out to be a weak character, drug addict, foul-mouthed, low-life, wanted escapee convict, on the lam from the police, who only goes with Linda to meet his unknown dying dad in the hospital to avoid arrest. The kid at first finds her overbearing but is soon won over by her genuine concern for him, as she coddles him with affection and unbound Christian love. This odd journey, with a series of adventures, between the virtuous middle-aged Christian woman and the mixed-up young junkie, becomes for the scorned woman a chance to regain her self-esteem and re-evaluate her sad life and how a happy life was taken away from her by a sexless marriage. It's an oddball road movie with too many heavy-handed scenes and too many shots of Linda looking shocked at Raymond's gross actions, but still forgiving him.

There's a subplot involving Linda's irascible sister Sheila (Gayland Williams) and her salacious pastor husband Peter (Jon Gries), who has a secret crush on Linda.

The only thing impressive about the pic was Rachael Harris delivering an outstanding performance, whereby she made her annoyingly naive one-dimensional character believable and sympathetic. Harris showed through her gritty performance that she believed in her character's piety and core values, and that her sincerity never let her lose her dignity no matter how confusing her life might have seemed. Otherwise the film seemed implausible, the pacing was dreadful, the clumsily told story seemed contrived and it had too many awkward scenes that were unbearable to watch.

Of note: Robbie Pickering is a native of Jersey Village, Texas, and made the film in tribute to his mother, the real Linda White.

REVIEWED ON 12/13/2012       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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