With all the earmarks of a personal story, this arthouse film brings together
a high-voltage cast in a low-wattage, off-beat collision of generations that
result in the exposure of suppressed memories.
At the top of the pyramid of the Lair family is Henry (Michael Caine) a
retired archaeologist who, by virtue of age and declining health, has
reason to be irascible and demanding. Without him, there might not be
anybody in the stultifying L.A. duplex to roil it up and give it some
His grandson Jason (Josh Lucas), who walks with a limp, and 6-year old great
grandson Zach (Jonah Bobo) are just too comfortable with their basic life
together to go looking for trouble or excitement. It's all Jason can do to
keep his grandfather contained within some kind of recognizable rationality
and not so fixed on his impending death. No, it's grandpa that insists on
going out, like to the local Colonel Sanders, when a celebration or something
momentous is in order.
The first of these occurs when his son Turner (Christopher Walken) shows up
after an absence of 25 or so years. Bring out the buckets of KFC, the
family circle is complete! But Turner hasn't shown up to bring peace and
stability to the modest household. As dysfunctional and woman deprived as it
was (Jason's wife is off in Nepal to paint, the Danish nurse (Glenne Headly)
is the only skirt in sight), this prodigal bone in the stew is going to add
some bitterness to the brew.
The second cause for a trip to the Colonel is for grandpa to put together the
complex will he's drawn up. And, sure enough, when he kicks over, Turner and
Jason have to take to the road to satisfy its terms. These include a
carefully plotted route taking them into New Mexico and a journey
of mutual discovery, some adjustment, and an abundance of disagreement. But,
that's not the problem.
Turner, it turns out, has a little family secret to reveal to his son Jason,
one which will answer his almost life-long question about why his father ran
off in the first place. But the answer is not going to be easy to take, and
will bring the question of forgiveness into the picture big time. But, it's
a little late in the telling for a satisfactory dramatic effect.
Lucas has a chance here to show his credentials as a sensitive actor with a
fine balance of warmth and fallibility. Walken always puts me on edge because
of his tendency to go beyond the pale of normality in order to stand out.
While that's not too much in evidence here, his portrayal is tinged with his
patented version of an enigmatic, offbeat character. Caine is all right but
one is glad we're spared having him aboard for the long tour of KFC
The film is a modest vehicle for these large talents and should have earned
its funding as a matter of product placement. At the end of what I swore was
a 2-hour movie (it runs only 85 minutes) I wanted to pat writer-director
Jordan Roberts on the back for having the chance to unload his troubling
family history -- something I'd guess he had to wait for years to accomplish.
Anyone who hasn't yet seen it might want to wait also... for the DVD to
appear in the bins. In the meanwhile.. drumstick anyone?
~~ Jules Brenner