Sunday, 12 April 2009

DVD Review - Wildflower

Wildflower is a film of firsts. It’s the first films I’ve seen directed by Diane Keaton. It’s the first film I’ve ever seen with Patricia Arquette (as far as I can remember), the first I’ve seen for ages with Beau Bridges in (the last was The Fabulous Baker Boys - a loooooooooooooooong time ago), and the first I’ve seen with Reese Withersppon when she was a little girl. (Her performance is reminiscent of Anna Paquin’s in the equally mediocre Fly Away Home (with Jeff Daniels), though thankfully without the piercing screams.) Bridges looks rather like Russell Crowe in this film, which was a bit disconcerting as I kept forgetting who it actually was!

Wildflower actually has quite an intriguing plot premise, that promises a lot more than the film ends up delivering. Arquette plays a 17 year-old girl named Alice, who has epilepsy and is partly deaf, and who is kept locked in a shed by her abusive stepfather (Norman Max Maxwell). Her mother (Susan Blakely) goes along with it because she’s scared of her husband and has given up hope for her daughter.

Two young siblings, and Ellie and Sammy (Witherspoon and William McNamara discover her completely by chance and decide to befriend her. They also try to help her – trying to get her an education and medical treatment – but end up causing as many problems as they solve. Sammy wants to go to university but receives no encouragement in this regard from his father (Bridges), who has lost almost all interest in life since his wife died. An examination of the human relationships and prejudices follows, and it should be really good….

… but, much as I admire Keaton as an actress, her directing here stinks. It’s very obviously a made-for-TV drama, having frequent and annoying sudden fade-outs for the commercial breaks. Most of the cast are fine, but are hampered by some appalling dialogue. The plot is very shaky, with sudden changes in character by the main protagonists for no adequately explained (or even believable) reason. The film is full of stereotypes, particularly the paper-thin male characters (apart from Sammy’s character, who is fairly complex, and Macnamara does a pretty good job of portraying him). Most events in the film are utterly predictable, the only really exceptions being those that are implausible. And the ending is…. well, let’s just say that the scriptwriter seemed to have completely lost interest in the film by this point. The music score and cinematography were so-so (though the latter showed occasional signs of rising above the mundane), neither really adding to nor detracting from the film.

At this juncture you may be wondering why I’ve given it as much as a 3 star, recommended rating. There’s one reason for this – Patrica Arquette. She gives an absolutely incredible performance as Alice, and was utterly compelling every time she was on the screen – I really must search out some more of her films. It’s worth watching for her alone. Seeing such a young Reese Witherspoon has novelty, and it’s nice to see Beau Bridges in a leading role. Overall I was disappointed with the film as it had a lot of potential and realised almost none of it.

The film is rated 15, presumably due to the scenes of brutality to women and children (though Alice is 17, she’s practically still a child due to the way she’s been treated). These scenes don’t pull any punches (no pun intended) and are actually pretty disturbing. You have been warned.

The DVD version has the theatrical trailer and chapter selection. And… that’s it.

Among other things, this movie has helped to convince me of the utter pointlessness of 99% of the so-called “reviews” on Amazon, 12 out of 13 of which stated that this was a 5-star film and among the best they had ever seen (oh, and the majority were about one paragraph of semi-literate nonsense apiece). And I’ve been told that I don’t see enough films!! (Here endeth my rant for the day…)

Related Posts

I can’t say I’ve really reviewed all that many movies that may be classed as “character studies”, but I guess Pay It Forward fits the bill fairly nicely. Just to prove that made-for-TV movies can be good, here’s my review of Cheyenne Warrior. Oh, and Reese Witherspoon was also in the [sigh] hugely disappointing follow up to the wonderful Legally Blonde.

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