Middle Of Nowhere
One of the greatest attributes with an independent film is the freedom the media affords the film maker. The goal is usually more artistic than profit although nobody complains when a film costs less than a million bringing a five hundred fold return. Still films that manage that and still hold true to their artistic vision are rare but this does not diminish the Indy movies that achieve the honest yet simple goal of telling a story in an entertaining fashion. One film in that category is ‘Middle of Nowhere’. I hadn’t heard much about this film but I was impressed with some interesting casting choices and jumped at the opportunity to review it. I was glad I did. This is a quiet little movie that reaches out to the humanity of the audience and touches them in such a way that you realize you are enjoying the experience of watching it. A film like this doesn’t depend on the marvels of modern computerized special effects or a budget that could support a sizeable country. It looks to a different direction for what it needs to work; talent. An Indy film such as this is the perfect venue for upcoming actors to hone their craft and established stars to reconnect to the artistry of cinema. Actually this is very much the case since the movie does showcase a famous mother, Susan Sarandon with her talented daughter Eva Amurri although it does wind up very much the daughter’s staring vehicle. The DVD and Blu-ray of the film have been released by Image Entertainment. They have one of the most eclectic catalogs of movies around and are known for giving worthy little films like this a shot at the distribution they deserve. If you get tired of the summer blockbusters wither their earth shaking audio a flashy effects give this movie a shot. It aspires to and achieves one simple goal; to give you a fun time watching a movie.
Writing the screenplay was Michelle Morgan a novice author bur she did have a featured role in front of the camera on ‘American Dreams’. The script is admittedly fairly formulaic but it is not without heart. Morgan’s largest problem here seems to be her enthusiastic attempt to excel in several different genres at once. What is evident here is she does have an innately interesting way of relating a story. If she concentrates on a more tightly restricted genre it might help her find her narrative voice. The comedy is frequently too broad which is ten juxtaposed to the dramatic moments. The characters Morgan provides are rich in potential but she doesn’t quite get around to fully realizing them as distinctive human being. It is like a rough sketch just waiting for the details. Morgan ids defiantly on the right track here she just needs to trust her own instincts and give more to character development. The script has a lot going on but needs to choose a dominant thread to explore. What does help out a lot is the complimentary directorial style of John Stockwell. He may be familiar to many as the best friend in ‘Christine’ but he has racked up some interesting credits in the director’s seat. He helmed several episodes for ‘The L Word’ in addition to his big screen movies like ‘Turistas, ‘Into the Blue’ and ‘crazy/Beautiful’. This variety of work demonstrates Stockwell is comfortable easing into different genres exploring his style, in this film he has a laid back approach perfect for a film about the last summer before college. The urgency infused by the script is nicely tempered by the easy going direction creating a film of contrasts interesting to watch.
Grace (Eva Amurri) is a young woman who has worked hard to get into a good college. Unfortunately her mother Rhonda (Susan Sarandon) is more than flighty she is pathologically irresponsible. Not only did she neglect paying her taxes ruining her own credit rating she took out a wallet full of credit cards in Grace’s name neglecting to pay anything on the sizable balances. As a result Grace has no way of securing financing for school. Grace’s father died and her mother’s next husband is out of the picture leaving Grace waiting for some mythical settlement so mom can pay her back. There is a great economy to how the relationship between mother and daughter is first revealed. Grace comes home after a horrible day being rejected for student aide to find her mother purchased a new dress for almost $300. When she tries to confront her mother with this Rhonda is bust brushing her younger daughter’s Taylor (Willa Holland) hair. All mom has to say to Grace is criticizing Graces modest outfit and how she plucks her eyebrows. Mom spent the money to keep up her own extravagant life style sand for the beautification of spoiled Taylor.
Meanwhile in a very upscale home Dorian (Anton Yelchin) is doing his best to avoid the fuss his family is making over his sister. The first we see him is in a bathtub, only the oval of his face poking out of the milky white water as he exhales from a joint. Again the direction tells a lot. Dorian is very much adrift in life rebelling against the expectations and rules of his family. He gets in trouble once too often and is given one last chance to shape up before being exiled to military school. He has to work for the summer at a water park owned by his uncle. He plans to argument the low pay that he doesn’t really need by selling pot. The only hurdle id he is not allowed to drive. When Dorian over hears Grace relating her financial woes to her best friend Jean (Brea Grant) at the park’s staff orientation he befriends her offering her a job as his driver. It takes a little while for Grace to figure out that she is chauffeuring s pot dealer but the two begin to build a good friendship, I have been a fan of these two young actors for awhile. Amurri was inspired in her bad girl role in ‘Saved!’ while Yelchin was in the cancelled before it’s time ‘Huff’. From what they show here but are on the verge of exceptional careers.