DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THAT EVENING SUN (director/writer: Scott Teems; screenwriter: based on the short story “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down” by William Gay; cinematographer: Rodney Taylor; editor: Travis Sittard; music: Michael Penn; cast: Hal Holbrook (Abner Meecham), Barlow Jacobs (J. D. the Cabbie), Mia Wasikowska (Pamela Choat), Carrie Preston (Ludie Choat), Raymond McKinnon (Lonzo Choat), Barry Corbin (Thurl Chessor), Walton Goggins (Paul), Dixie Carter (Ellen Meecham), Bruce McKinnon (Sheriff Roller); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Laura Smith, Terence Berry/Raymond McKinnon/Walton Goggins; Freestyle Releasing; 2009)

 
"Seems best viewed as a carefully orchestrated character study about a strong-willed man with the dramatic fireworks seemingly slight in comparison."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Adapting Southern author William Gay’s short story “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down” is first-time feature director-writer Scott Teems, who keeps the story about a hard-bitten octogenarian Tennessee farmer languid, regional, rooted to the earth and slowly paced. Hal Holbrook superbly plays Abner Meecham, as a feisty curmudgeon traditionalist who goes AWOL from an old folks home that his harried trial lawyer son Paul (Walton Goggins) had him sent to.

Though ailing, the embittered Abner is hoping to spend his last days in peace and quiet in his isolated farm. However, he discovers his son has rented the house to a surly thirtysomething deadbeat named Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon), who's living off income from a suspicious insurance settlement over a farm accident. Also living there is Lonzo's long-suffering wife Ludie (Carrie Preston) and his antsy teenage daughter Pamela (Mia Wasikowska, Australian actress).

It's a bad situation for Abner, who considers Lonzo as "white-trash" and someone who is not reliable. Forced to live now in an old tenant shack on the farm, the grumpy Abner keeps with him a shotgun as the antagonists dig their heels in to try to get the better of the other. The melodrama turns into a waiting game to see if the prideful Lonzo can raise enough dough to buy the farm or if Abner can wait Lonzo out to take back the farm.

Animosity between the warring parties builds, as the old geezer at first resists then begins to deal with his checkered past. Along the way there's confrontations between the testy old codger and the knuckle-headed Lonzo, a couple of revealing conversations with son Paul that cast a dim light on Abner as a dad, Lonzo when drunk becoming violent to his daughter and some syrupy silent flashbacks with Abner's deceased wife Ellen (Dixie Carter, Holbrook’s real-life wife). The best scenes are the subdued conversations between Abner and his ailing next-door neighbor and best friend Thurl (Barry Corbin).

It was shot in and around Knoxville, Tenn., giving it an authentic feel. Though well-produced and acted with a hard edge by Holbrook, there's nothing about it to excite the viewer. It seems best viewed as a carefully orchestrated character study about a strong-willed man with the dramatic fireworks seemingly slight in comparison. 

Pic took home the audience award for feature and a special jury prize for ensemble cast at the SXSW Film Festival. 

REVIEWED ON 12/20/2009       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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