Friday, February 29, 2008

"Bonneville" -- * *

Christopher N. Rowley's "Bonneville" is a tough movie to get angry about, but it's hard to imagine anyone getting particularly enthused about it either. It's a nice enough paint-by-numbers movie for old ladies who just want to see genial fare that doesn't stimulate or provoke any real thoughts or feelings, but there's really no reason for anyone else to bother. I wish this wasn't the case, as I'm one of those people who complains there's not enough work for (at least two of) these leading ladies, but ultimately, the quality of the actresses only accentuates how bland the material is. To my understanding, the movie is only opening in a couple markets, and I imagine they're all ones with significant elderly women populations.
Jessica Lange stars as Arvilla (I swear I've never heard that name before), a mormon lady who's still mourning the recent death of her husban and plans on scattering his ashes, as the man asked her to. However, Arvilla's cunty stepdaughter (Christine Baranski) shows up and demands he be buried with her mother. Since deadie never got around to changing his will, stepdaughter threatens to rescind Arvilla's house if she scatters the ashes as planned. Arvilla obliges but insists on driving the ashes to Los Angeles/Santa Barbara herself, and we know some ashes will be scattered along the way. Arvilla's best friends, fellow Mormons Margene (Kathy Bates) and Carol (Joan Allen) end up joining her for the drive, and the three experience the joys and wackiness of life along the way. Yeah.

As you can imagine, no one is really playing an actual character here, everything is a "type." Lange is the sad but free-spirited mourner. Allen is the uptight one who needs to learn to cut loose. Bates is the fat, "sassy," horny one (my audience cackled at everything she said-- at least I think; they could have just been asking for peas). Baranski is the kind of cold bitch with ridiculous reaction-baiting lines you usually only see in Tyler Perry movie. As such, no one is really able to give a real performance, or at least not any worth noting. One has to imagine the three actresses liked the idea of working together (and getting leading roles for a change) more than anything in the script.

Filled with typical half-assed cliches and archetypes (e.g: the sexy young thing who knows how to change a tired, and the "dreamboat" trucker who wants to bone the fat chick) and feeling like a movie you've seen a half-dozen times before, "Bonneville" is admirable in theory but is really uninspired treacle that would fit more comfortably on Lifetime. While it'll play nicely to a certain type of audience, it never even goes for broke enough in terms of sentimentality or demo-targetting to linger in their memories. I'll grant you that I'm not this movie's target audience at all, but I love a good old ladies movie ("First Wives Club" is a particularly guilty pleasure of mine) if done right, and hoped this movie would fulfill the potential of its all-too-often unemployed cast. In a week where they just became multiple Oscar winners, one can't help but imagine what the Coen Brothers would have done with this fluff.


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