Monday, April 15, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: Around the Bend

Around the Bend was writer and director Jordan Robert's first independentish feature film and was, as Robert's tells us in his DVD commentary on the Warner Brothers Around the Bend DVD, loosely based on his relationship, or perhaps more accurately his lack of relationship, with his drug using independent film maker hippie father.

Around the Bend is a film about four generations of the men of the Lair tribe. There's Henry (Michael Caine) the homesy archaeologist, Kentucky Fried Chicken loving, and ex alcoholic patriarch of the clan. There's Henry's son Turner (Christopher Walken) the ex drug using and criminal prodigal son who has been "resurrected" from the dead, that is what the family has said happened to him to the youngest of the Lair men, and returned home. There's Jason (Josh Lucas) Turner's lame straight laced son who has a job at a local bank. And there's Zack (Jonah Bobo) Jason's ever questioning young son.

When Henry dies he sends the remaining males of the Lair tribe on a ceremonial pilgrimage and ritual journey to Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants across the American Southwest, whose desert browns the Around the Bend's cinematography seems to mimic, from California, to Arizona, and finally to New Mexico. During this ritual road trip the remaining Lair men "dig up shit", get to know each other, bond with each other, and eat ritual Eucharistic meals at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants Henry has sent them to so they can then scatter his ashes and those of his faithful dog, who dies the day after he does and whose death he predicts, in sacred locations that were meaningful in his life on holy Lair tribe sites across the American Southwest.

Around the Bend's final ritual takes Turner and Jason to the profane site where Turner reveals to Jason that Jason's limp was not the result of a car crash he was in with his mother, what the family told Jason when he asked how he got his limp, but the result of Turner, in a drugged haze after losing his wife, throwing him down the stairs of their home outside Albuquerque. Henry has brought the two here so that Turner, who we now know is dying from kidney disease, can find reconciliation with Jason, and Jason can forgive his father.

Around the Bend is a film about life, about family, about tribal rituals, about reconciliation, about forgiveness, and about loss, the loss of fathers, the loss of sons, and the loss of unseen wives and mothers who hover over Henry and Turner and Jason like ghosts throughout the film. I found the film a little comme ci, a little comme ça, a little very good, particularly the very moving final two scenes, a little good, and a little lot more OK. That said, it is always nice to see a serious adult film coming out of kiddie korn obsessed Hollywood. Check it out.

Around the Bend, 2004, Warner Independent (wonderful oxymoron that), directed and written by Jordan Roberts, 1:85:1

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