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Lemon sky is a filmed stage play that transfers poorly to the screen. The actors basically give stage style performances that are meant to reach the last row in the theatre and on film it comes across as artificial and remote.
It is fifties America and its dream and promise is in full ascendancy and nowhere better than the Golden State, California. Alan (Kevin Bacon) has come from Nebraska to live with his father whom he hasn't seen since he was five. Alan is there to go to school and work part time as well as get to reconnect with dad and get to know his new family. On the surface all is well with the family in this sun drenched land of opportunity but underneath they all hold dark secrets that over the course of the play fester and eventually implode this all American brood in the film's climactic moment.
Technically Director Jan Egleson plays it safe with his camera, flatly filming the fabulous fifties kitsch (including a 55 Chevy) set with little or no movement outside of the opening tracking shot of the home that economically establishes place and character. It then bogs down in cliché character development telegraphing most of what's up ahead.
Kevin Bacon gives an excellently measured and powerful performance as Allan. His search to find himself in a generation of conformity evolving from impish teen to social outcast is the film's saving grace. Tom Atkins as the bullying and predatory father imparts a convincing an uncomfortable ugliness. The three lead actresses (Lindsay Crouse, Kyra Sedgewick and Welker White) come across as heavily medicated zombies. Given their talent one wonders if it is Egleson's feeble attempt to define them as battered women.
Lanford Wilson's play is a tepid entry from the endless exposes of societal and domestic hypocrisy. While it might make for a mildly thought provoking and emotional night at the theatre which has the capability of putting the audience in the kitchen it becomes lifeless upon being transferred to screen. Unlike Bergman who was a master at filming memory plays such as this Egleson fails to get his camera fully involved or explore it's possibilities and Lemon Sky gets lost in the clouds.
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