Friday, March 21, 2008


“I’m pretending not to hate my life.”

Joleen (Charlize Theron) is a mess. She can’t raise her daughter Tara (AnnaSophia Robb) and has just been evicted. Unable to deal with the harsh realities of her life, she pawns off her daughter on her only slightly more stable brother James (Nick Stahl), and takes off (for most of the film’s running time), without saying goodbye, with promises to return after she hits it big.

Trouble is James is almost as big a screw-up as his sister and promptly loses both his apartment and his job. Tara is shipped off to Social Services and James goes off to live in a friend’s (Woody Harrelson) basement.

By this point your obviously wondering what the point of the film is. I was too. In fact after watching the entire thing I’m still unsure.

Unable to abandon Tara as her mother did James kidnaps her and takes her on a road trip back home to the farm where he and Joleen were raised. There Tara meets her grandfather (Dennis Hopper) who, let’s just say doesn’t stand a good chance at winning grandfather of the year.

There are several pieces here including some very good performances across the board and some memorable moments (my favorite includes a swimming pool and a pair of skates). The trouble is, much like James himself, the movie seems to be sleepwalking through much of its running time. All these separate strands are never woven together, instead the film becomes more and more depressing leaving the plot a tangled mess.

The film, in it’s own odd way, does present a somewhat happy ending, but it doesn’t answer any questions or provide any clue about what will happen to these characters in the future. In fact the plot leaves almost everyone back in the same dire straights which they started the film. Maybe they are a little wiser, but that’s debatable.

Other than providing an opportunity for a group of actors to work on their craft I’m just not sure why this film was made. There is no point, no moral, no revelations, truth, or message to be found here (other than the fact that life sucks most of the time, except for brutal and pseudo-happy endings). I expected more.

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