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Some thirty years after Arlis witnesses his father murdering a family, he runs into Kay, who happens to be the family's baby who was spared. Kay and Arlis suspect nothing about each other, but when his father returns, old wounds are reopened. Written by
Once in a while you come across someone who is a little odd, or haunted, or unsociable, or all of the above, and you wonder to yourself how they might have gotten that way. What made them that way? Why are they so terminally sad? Steve Koves has brought us the back story to those questions. His script and handling of the story are stellar. This is not a happy film. But it is a fascinating one.
Everyone in this cast is at their best. But it is Dennis Quaid, who gives the best performance of his ample career, that breaths this story to life, or, death, as it were. He plays Arliss. Arliss has a nickel and dime vending machine business that takes him through the most desolate parts of Texas. His work is so lowly that he doesn't even handle paper money. Coins and dyed chickens are his stock and trade. He pours himself into his boring work as if he is trying to take his mind off of something. Something unpleasant. We know what that something is from the opening of the movie. What unfolds now is the picture of what a destroyed life looks like as it tries to outrun it's past. Quaid is brilliant at creating a haunted and wounded Arliss without making him pathetic. He is the obscure guy you might run across unexpectedly that makes you go, hmmm, what happened to him.
There is nothing about this film that isn't first rate. I am mystified by it's "average" rating here on this site. I suppose if you hate good scripts, skillful directing, brilliant performances, and haunting sound and cinematography, I guess I could see giving this movie a 5. It is certainly possible not to like this type of film. But it is negligent, as a viewer, not to acknowledge it's quality. It is an excellent piece of film making and Dennis Quaid shows just what a brilliant and understated actor he is. James Caan, Meg Ryan, and Gwyneth Paltrow are also up to Quaids level here. I highly recommend this movie. It's different. It's interesting. It's engrossing. And it's brilliantly done.
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