A boozing, recently widowed young woman gives every one she comes into contact with a hard time. Initially, the viewer is led to believe that her attitude is because of the death of her ... See full summary »

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Meg Darnell
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Irene Flake
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Hitchhiker (as Terrence Dashon Howard)
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A boozing, recently widowed young woman gives every one she comes into contact with a hard time. Initially, the viewer is led to believe that her attitude is because of the death of her husband in a motorcycle accident. However, it grows clearer as the film progresses that she just generally has a bitchy attitude about life. She moves back home with her in-laws, where she is pursued by a nice young grocer. However, his mother recognizes her as a heart breaker and warns him away and battles with her. Written by John Sacksteder <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

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A Journey From Despair To Palm Springs

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Drama

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22 January 1999 (USA)  »

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Irrallisia suhteita  »

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Wish We Never Met
Written and Performed by Kathleen Wilhoite
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Grieving widow struggles to find her true self.
17 July 1999 | by (Mesa, Arizona) – See all my reviews

The buzz was good. "Why can't more films be like this one," remarked an audience member as he left the Dickinson WestGlen 18 theater complex in Shawnee, Kan. after the special Film Society of Greater Kansas City screening of "Valerie Flake," the independent film from director John Putch starring Susan Traylor and Jay Underwood. The movie drew praise from several members--but not this critic. And yes, it pains me to say so, considering Underwood traveled hundreds of miles to Kansas City from California just to promote the film (and serve as featured speaker for the Eighth Annual KAN Film Festival at the University of Kansas the following day).

In his remarks before the screening, Underwood described the film as a "labor of love." He auditioned for his role as Tim, the heroine's love interest, because he was attracted to the "great script." Every movie needs a strong story, and according to Underwood this one has one. So strong, in fact, it was one of those rare occasions when both his manager and his agent were in agreement after reading the script. However, as Underwood himself remarked the next day at the KAN Film Festival, a great script doesn't always guarantee a great movie. Sadly, that seems to be the case with "Valerie Flake."

This film revolves around the character of Valerie. She's in every scene and somewhat of an enigma. She's a grieving widow who unsympathetically ridicules her dead spouse. She sleeps around (to mask her pain?) and fears commitment. And she struggles with at least one demon inside her, which she unleashes at her in-law's 40th wedding anniversary celebration.

The film is a complex character study (as many independent films are), and for it to succeed, the audience must relate in someway to Valerie. Unfortunately, Traylor failed to connect with me. She plays Valerie too blandly. She's supposed to be an alcoholic, yet she seems to be the same person drunk or sober. Most people I know change personalities at least a little bit when they are under the influence of the booze. Valerie stays in the same stupor all the time.

Traynor's blandness becomes even more apparent when contrasted with Underwood's character Tim. He's a sweet, instantly-likeable guy who's suddenly smitten by Valerie when he sees her helping the new cashier in the grocery store he manages. Granted he's been separated from his wife for eight months and is extremely lonely, but it's impossible to see what attracts him to Valerie. She's certainly not very charming, and yet within two days he invites her to live with him. By the end of the week, he proposes marriage, much to the dismay of his disapproving mother, nicely played by Christina Pickles. I could understand Valerie falling for Tim, but not the other way around.

The rest of the ensemble does a fine job. Director John Putch (son of actress Jean Stapleton) enticed several veteran actors into the cast (Peter Michael Goetz and Rosemary Forsyth are particularly effective in what amounts to cameo roles as Valerie's in-laws). The music by Kathleen Wilhoite helped set the mood for several montage sequences and the production values belie the film's meager (by Hollywood standards) $500,000 budget. According to Underwood, the film was well-received by the Daily Variety critic at this year's Sundance Film Festival, but failed to attract a distributor.


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