The Driftless Area

I love everyone in this movie. I love Zooey, I love Aubrey, I love Alia, I love J.Hawkes, I love C.Hinds, I love F.Langella, and I even love Anton because I recognized him from Charlie Bartlett and he has a sweet face. I even loved the idea of this movie and the beautiful, sweeping landscapes. But, oh dear God, I hated this movie.

It really pains me to say this, because as I was watching, I was cringing, longing for it to be over, befuddled by how so many great people could be apart of something so incredibly pretentious. I think it had the potential to be wonderful, but somewhere in the middle of the forest, that potential got lost and replaced with heavy-handedness. I was intrigued enough by the story to know that The Driftless Area, the book, has to be excellent, because it drew these kinds of people into the project. I haven’t read it, but after seeing this movie, I know it was meant to be in print and stay in print. Some stories are better enhanced by our own imaginations.

Every single line said by every single character felt over-rehearsed and under-delivered. A slow, deliberate theater piece set in a gorgeous natural background. A world filled with people who think too much about very unimportant things because they have nothing else going on, and who indulge each other’s idiosyncrasies instead of pushing each other to be better. Maybe I expect too much of my movie characters, and maybe I want to see progress over the course of two hours, and I shouldn’t expect that of every movie. I know that’s certainly not the point of every feature-length film. Whatever the point of this one was, it was buried deep in the aforementioned forest, and left buried there.

The timeline of the story is a bit askew, and the logic leaves a lot to be assumed by the viewer, but suffice it to say that Yelchin’s soft-spoken Pierre finds himself in quite a pickle after bumming a ride off of Hawkes’ creepster Shane. All Pierre was trying to do was deliver some flowers to his shut-in, possibly ghostly lady love, Deschanel’s Stella, when his car broke down and he was forced to hitchhike. Shane wants the flowers because he’s an irrational dick, Pierre doesn’t want to give them to him, things get bizarrely confrontational, and Pierre maybe kills Shane but he’s not sure. Shane rolls with a shady crowd, including Plaza’s very slutty Jean, and the whole thing turns into an unnecessary, slow-moving vengeance tale. Oh, also, Stella and Pierre met because Stella was walking through a field (again, possibly as a ghost — she was killed-ish in a house fire set by Shane) and she heard a noise in a well. Pierre had fallen into the well. She rescued him, saved his life, he showed her how to live again, all that shit. I mean, she sort of had a life coach in Langella’s Richard Nixon Tim Geer, but he was to old to get down with if you know what I mean. And poor Alia’s Carrie got relegated to the Cute But Not As Hot As Zooey role of Pierre’s Best Friend and Film Narrator to Help Explain What the Fuck is Going On.

I normally don’t recount plots like this, but written out, I feel like the absurdity becomes more abundantly clear. It’s impossible for any of these characters to talk about anything shallow or fun, which sometimes helps viewers get to know them. The only relatable character in this whole thing is, of course, Carrie, because she does have a perspective that none of the others do. She doesn’t imbue her speech with poetic molasses. But she’s in the minority.

I’m wondering if reading the book will provide some much-needed enlightenment into the importance of this story, or if it’ll just reinforce my aforementioned belief that some pieces of art are meant to exist in their original medium. In any case, if this film makes it to theaters, be advised that it won’t be what you want to see from any of these people. They’re all superb actors, caught in a cinematic world that takes itself way too seriously.

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