Sunday, 24 May 2009

No. 137 : Winter Passing

People with issues - don’t you love them? Can’t beat a bit of misery and soul searching for an entertaining 90 minutes and when you throw in a kitten drowning you know you’ve got the feel good package of the year.

That’s a bit harsh actually because despite it’s depressing table of contents the film won me over with it’s top notch performances and for the small redemptions that most of the characters enjoyed.

The film follows the emotional journey of Reece, played by Zooey Deschanel whom I recently saw in the crappy ‘Yes Man’. Reece is an actress with issues who enjoys a healthy does of self harming as well as drugs and casual sex. We get to see how talented she is as she goes through auditions singing and piano playing her heart out. She is however hard up and an offer of $100K for her late mother’s letters temps her back to the family home.

We learn that both her parents were celebrated authors with her Dad, played by Ed Harris, now a recluse who has had nothing published in years. The obvious comparison here is one with JD Salinger so it’s a bit lazy that he’s called Don Holdin as in Caulfield. After a long bus trip she gets to her home to find her dad is living in the garage while a former student of his and Will Ferrell are living in his house - I hate it when that happens. The group start out cagey at first but after a series of one to ones they all start to get on famously.

Reece finds her mother’s letters but after reading them she has second thoughts about the sale. After airing some dirty linen Don starts writing again and the slightly simple Ferrell gets coerced into trying out for an open mic night, laying to rest the demons of his Christian rock days. As you’d probably guess a lot of healing and bonding goes on with the film ending with just a shaft of light appearing for most of the guys.

I quite liked this film although it does have ‘nominate me for an Oscar’ all over it. Zooey does give a bravura performance in the lead but she is a bit too needy and unpredictable to win any real affection. She has had a bad childhood so it’s fair enough that’s she’s a bit rebellious but she didn’t need to drown that sick kitten.

Ferrell is fine as the borderline retarded Corbet but he is essentially just playing his role from the later and far superior ‘Step Brothers’ right down to the performance anxiety and bursts of repressed rage. The scene where he does an Eagles song in the bar is a good one and it’s a shame that his character is forgotten at the end. Ed Harris is always good value and, despite a ropey wig, he’s fine in this too.

The film is hung pretty much across Zooey’s shoulders and the fact that it’s OK despite a glum and relentless script says a lot for her. Not a rib tickler or a pick you up special but if you like people with problems and seeing them solve some but not all of them then this could be the film for you.

Best Bit : Open Mic at the bar
‘W’ Rating :15/23

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