Friday, June 09, 2006

'Winter Passing' ...

What a difference an "Elf" makes.

Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell star together in "Winter Passing," which is miles away from the North Pole and New York City.

If dysfunctional families are ubiquitous film fodder, this cast is a garbage salad. The dad's a washed-up writer drunk, the daughter is bitter and prone to self-harm, the mother is dead, and a former student and ex-Christian rocker have taken up residence in the dad's house, since he decided to move into the dilapidated garage. Bitter daughter, an actress in New York City, comes home to Detroit to find the letters shared between mom and dad, both reknowned novelists, that a New York book editor wants to buy for $100,000.

Healing ensues.

It's very odd to watch Will and Zooey acting in such earnest, after watching them romp as department-store elves. Ed Harris, the has-been dad, is unsurprisingly brilliant. I can't think of a role of his I haven't loved. He was in "The Hours" for all of 10 minutes and stole the show.

I don't know if I liked this movie, exactly. The performances are all solid. The story is sweet. But, like a key bit of dialogue late in the film, it borders on sentimental. Maybe these characters find their inner sentiment, long supressed. Maybe. If so, it's well-deserved and hard-won.

Let's see what Roger Ebert had to say:

"This is the kind of movie routinely dismissed as too slow and quiet by those who don't know it is more exciting to listen than to hear." That's a damn fine sentence. And he gave the film three and a half stars.

I suspect its Netflix rating is much lower. As L.A. Dave and I would say, this one was too smart for the room. Let's take a look, shall we? Average Netflix rating is three out of five stars. Which is like a C to Roger's B+/A-. And the sentence I pulled from Rog's review is the sentence Netflix culled, as well.

You won't laugh. You probably won't cry. You might feel Reese's omnipresent emptiness. You might want to give her a hug. But at the end of the day, she'll be OK. Dad, too.

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