Saturday, January 23, 2010

That Evening Sun

"That Evening Sun" is a tale of "standing your ground" (as they say in the film) that works sometimes. Hal Holbrook plays the same role as Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino" and even Anthony Hopkins in "The World's Fastest Indian" (a film that mirrored this one's technical qualities): "a sly, cantankerous rascal" (as Owen Gleiberman would call him). Abner Meecham (Holbrook), after leaving his nursing home, is forced into the "tenant's house" because a family is renting out his house. It's not any ordinary family either. It's the Choats, with whom Meecham apparently has bad blood, especially Lonzo (Ray McKinnon), who's apparently a "slacker."

Lonzo tries to get him to go away initially, but Meecham takes up residence in that "tenant's house" where all of his possessions have been put. At first, the other Choats, Ludie (Carrie Preston) and Pamela (Mia Wasikowska), are a little nervous that Lonzo will get mad, but still supply him with food. Then, we see Lonzo for what he is: a true "drunkard." You see him with beer from the first scene, but as the film develops you see it being put into use.

Meanwhile, Meecham is doing all he can to annoy the Choats so that they'll leave. He even gets a dog, something Lonzo hates extremely, and, as my friend remembers most from the short story this was based on, gears him to bark when it sounds like he's taming him. As you might imagine, this doesn't play out very well with Lonzo, who gets hyped up when Meecham is around and causes a lot of family tension, making it (indirectly) hell for Ludie and Pamela that Meecham is there.

This is an interesting film, but one that (I agree with my friend) isn't wholly a success. For example, the character of Pamela is pretty much a carbon copy of every other young adult in the young adult/elderly person relationship thing. Her dialogue ("you're funny," saying an expletive that's quickly reprehended by Meecham) is pretty typical. It's not a good sign that I sort of dreaded every time that Wasikowska was onscreen. And she's apparently an up and coming actress? I hope she's better than how she is here. I also think the character of the "helpful" son has run its course and should soon be retired to a nursing home.

The flashbacks were unnecessary and done in that way where you barely see anyone's faces. Enough history is salvaged in the dialogue between Meecham and Lonzo. Plus, can you think of a more desperate device for getting across backstory than having Meecham talk to his dog? And can you think of other things to play besides that little indie-movie-piano riff that keeps repeating throughout the beginning? (And, last and perhaps a little impossible to fix: could you possibly not have a lot of the film in dark and then suddenly in light?)

But I did appreciate Holbrook somewhat and also McKinnon as Lonzo. My friend said their chemistry was good and provided the best scenes of the film. I would agree. But this film tended to be really boring and made me extremely impatient. As another friend put nicely, it needed "tightening up." C+


Adelaide Dupont said...

Mia Wasiowska is so much better than some of the roles she's getting at the moment. Or maybe it's just that I expect more.

A really good film about elderly people and younger ones is Is Anybody There?

I also greatly enjoyed The Savages.

aspergiansarah said...

I kind of want to see this one.

Just for the record, what's the lowest rating for a movie you'd reccommend, like B- or B+? I guess I'd say anyone who has an interest in the premise should go for the movies I've rated over average (***.)

As far as Mia goes, I really would like to see Tim Burton's adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland." I know it will a sad day for people dreading seeing a childhood classic Burtonized.

Oh, and what's contrived about the old guy talking to his dog? I talk to my dog all the time.

Nick Duval said...

Let's put it this way about the dog: that's fine and all, and I actually liked some of the dog interactions, but to reveal major backstory information that way is (as people say) an act of desperation. It's basically Holbrook talking to the audience. As a technique, it seems kind of obvious.

There are some B- movies I'd recommend, like "Moon" or "The Messenger" and maybe even the C+ "Broken Embraces." But if you want one without too much clatter, I would say B as a threshold. That's getting into the good movies.

--- Nick

aspergiansarah said...

Yeah, it's kind of like those psychological movies. There's sometimes a stupid shrink there, not as a character, but to deliver dialogue resembling this-

*Cough* ______, in short, is...

Also when movies come to a shrieking halt so often-banal side characters can fill in for the clueless people, sounding roughly like they're reading off wikipedia.