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You Can't Go Home Again, Unless the Dealer Wants His Stake

MOVIE REVIEW
Lake City (2008)

LAKECITY_STILL01
Kent Eanes

“Lake City” uncomfortably weaves two of the most time-worn indie film formulas into a messy, convoluted 92 minutes. Hunter Hill and Perry Moore, the writer-directors, cram into their screenplay both the dysfunctional-family-uncomfortably-reunited plot line and the trouble-with-the-drug-dealer one. The movie adheres so closely to those standards that it feels like Sundance by committee.

Only the work of the strong ensemble – particularly in some affecting scenes between stars Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity – saves the picture from ruin. They play Maggie and Billy, mother and son driven apart because of a past trauma and brought back together when Billy returns home with a young boy named Clayton (Colin Ford). Billy’s on the run from drug dealer Red (Dave Matthews) and Clayton’s mother, his addict girlfriend, has abandoned her son to him.

Things follow a predictable path. We get a lot of moments brimming with barely disguised mother-son tension. These are interspersed with scenes of the constantly brooding Billy spending time in the local watering hole getting reacquainted with the sights and sounds of his past, particularly a police officer named Jennifer (Rebecca Romijn). The camera slowly pans around the waving fields of wheat enmeshed in the small-town Virginia setting and the final cut to a sun-drenched flashback reveals a past horror.

Ms. Spacek gives a compelling performance, demonstrating motherly wisdom and strength while evoking the vulnerability that comes with the knowledge that you’ve failed the most important people in your life. Mr. Garity’s consistent physical intensity conveys the character’s pent up rage in a convincing, naturalistic fashion. Their interactions – rife with intense emotions but never melodramatic – provide the only lifeline out of the sticky generic morass.

Otherwise the thing’s been firmly hitched to the indie wagon, playing out in a tepid sort of way that only rarely provokes any risible reaction. When the film does so, it’s usually one of incredulousness. Consider the fact that Mr. Matthews – calm, mellow Dave – has been cast as a drug dealer. There’s also, stunningly, a completely superfluous chase and shootout. These elements convey a rather staggering cluelessness on the part of the filmmakers in both the ways of the real world and the cinematic one.

LAKE CITY

Opens on Nov. 21 in the United States.

Written and directed by Hunter Hill and Perry Moore; director of photography, Robert Gantz; edited by Jeffrey Wolf; music by Aaron Zigman; production designer, David Crank; produced by Allison Sarofim, Donna L. Bascom and Mike S. Ryan; released by Screen Media Films. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Sissy Spacek (Maggie), Troy Garity (Billy), Rebecca Romijn (Jennifer), David Matthews (Red) and Drea De Matteo (Hope).

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