My coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival has had the unintended consequence of making me very, very ready for the summer movie season. Though some of the movies I’ve seen have been quite good, the constant stream of low-budget, super-serious indie dramas has made me want to jump out of a window. Can a girl get some decent explosions around here?
Lake City, though it does feature some gunfire, is one of the weaker examples of the classic film festival downer. A down-home drama about family ties and the virtues of small-town life, it avoids most of the clichés of Southern movies, but is still far too inept and self-absorbed to pack any punch.
Sissy Spacek stars as Maggie, a woman living alone in an old farm house in Virginia, her adult son Billy (Troy Garity) off living his own life. Actually, Billy is a bit more wrapped up in his girlfriend Hope’s (Drea de Matteo) life at the moment, given that she’s run off with a bunch of drugs and drug money, and the gangster (primarily one played by Dave Matthews, of all people) are after him. Billy takes Hope’s son Clayton (Colin Ford) and skips down, taking refuge at his mother’s house and refusing to admit that, before too long, the bad guys will be back.
In the meantime, Billy strikes up a flirtation with an old childhood friend (Rebecca Romijn), Clayton and Maggie bond, and Maggie and Billy confront a “deep family secret,” a secret that’s hinted at with leaden phrases like “We don’t go in that room… not anymore” and “Don’t ever ride in the back of a truck!” Gee, I wonder what happened to the kid who lived in that room and rode in the back of the truck?
Writer-directors Perry Moore and Hunter Hill never seem to have a grasp on their characters beyond the basics. In the press notes they say a shot of Maggie watching the sunset “says it all,” but we know so little about her character that there’s not really much to say. The gangster plot and the family drama plot never intertwine in any significant way, and you get the feeling they were thrown together just to make the film a feature running length. The actors do their best, and Garity is fairly convincing, but the dialogue is so howlingly bad there’s not much nuance to be had here.
It’s always appreciated when filmmakers turn away from the two coasts and actually try and make movies about the way the rest of the country lives, but movies like Lake City aren’t helping anyone. Contrived and too serious for its own good, it’s hard to imagine any distributor loving it so much they want to let the rest of the world see it. Consider yourselves spared of the boredom.