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|Index||38 reviews in total|
It may be about a stolen corpse, but Grand Theft Parsons' is anything but
morbid. It's a charming, heartwarming tale in which the central living
character's integrity and loyalty goes beyond the grave or rather, beyond
the desert bonfire.
The film is loosely based on the true story of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons and his road manager Phil Kaufman. When Parsons dies of a drug overdose, Kaufman is grimly determined to fulfil his late friend's wish to be cremated in the desert - even if that means stealing his coffin and evading a diverse posse of pursuers in a bright yellow hearse driven by an addled hippy.
Some have complained about the liberties taken with the true story of Parsons' incineration in the wilderness by Kaufman but as the real Kaufman makes a cameo appearance in the film, one may assume that he didn't mind. In any case, the truth-bending is clearly acknowledged in captions at the start of the movie.
There are some truly superb performances. Johnny Knoxville proves that he can be much more than an annoying prankster with a thoroughly convincing portrayal of Kaufman, Christina Applegate is magnificently repellent as Parsons' avaricious ex-girlfriend, and Robert Forster lends a warm, weary dignity to the character of Parsons' father. Best of all, though, is Michael Shannon's hysterically funny turn as the hapless hippy hearse driver, gradually realising the terrible truth about the situation he's stumbled into.
It all adds up to a frequently hilarious and delightful film, hugely enhanced by a glorious soundtrack featuring plenty of the real Parsons.
When so many big budget Hollywood shells get voted 8 or better here, I am amazed that so many can hate a film just because it doesn't take itself seriously, or according to one film-school dropout "failed to explore anything". And then what about the "fan of Gram Parsons for a long time" who complains that "when i found out they were making a film about him i was very exited ... was sickened by what i saw, This film wasn't about his life, it was about the aftermath of his death. I thought it would be a descent film about Grams Life and Music". So this one hates the film because he didn't bother to take the time to find out what it was about prior to watching it. Well duh! Do not be scared off by the low rating. The obvious reason all the Gram-fans have to vote it down is because as we all know "true fans" always take the object of their fandom seriously, and this film doesn't take itself seriously. It is very low-key, except Applegate, who as usual, is eye-candy. Speaking of Applegate, wasn't she in Anchorman? Now there was a film I saw only half of. Let me put it this way; if you loved Anchorman, you probably won't like this. If you're an uber-Gram-fan, you probably will hate this. If you just want a few chuckles, and are willing to laugh at stereotypes like a mellow, stoned hippie, a red-neck cop (though what a red-neck cop is doing in LA, I'm not sure), a little tugging at your inner yin-yang, then watch this. And no, absolutely contrary to the gram-fans, this isn't slapstick. It is actually the opposite. It is actually almost too mellow, and the best lines come out of nowhere.
I loved this movie, and thought it was both very sweet and very funny,
which is an unusual combination.
I do want to point out that this is not a movie about Gram Parsons, which seems to have caused a little confusion with some reviewers here.
The positive reviews are from people who like the film for what it is - a cool buddy road movie with a great soundtrack. The negative reviews are from people who complain about the film's makers changing some of the facts, or not telling enough of Gram Parsons' story, or not treating him with 'respect'.
For the record, this is not about Gram Parsons, but Phil Kaufman. It's not a biopic, but a black comedy. And it's not reverential, but dark, cool, and just a little twisted.
It is, however, great fun. And highly recommended...
I had the pleasure to see this film at the Dublin International Film
Festival and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This film is NOT a story about Gram
Parsons life. It begins as Gram Parsons is found dead and follows his
Phil Kaufman's attempts to steal the body with the intention of burning it
in the desert as per Gram's wishes. Sure this film takes liberties with
certain facts and characters but the film makers are trying to tell a
and it certainly is a witty, whimsical and entertaining film that deserves
to be seen by a wide audience.
The performances are almost all excellent with Johnny Knoxville giving an understated, almost subdued performance (not at all like his Jackass persona) as a man carrying out his friends final wishes.
At a Q & A after the film the director and producer revealed that Gram Parsons family were shown the film and loved it and so allowed his music to be used on the soundtrack. I can think of no greater compliment of the film to be said than that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Through a 30 year prism this might be closer to what happened than even
the principals believe. They know some details were altered, some were
I enjoyed this movie. The full body belly laughs are in the second half, as well as what little pathos the movie contained. That may be the part they came the closest to getting exactly right. After someone wastes their life at the age of 27 is not the time to grieve. Surely better to set them free.
If you weren't around for the late sixties, early seventies you might not believe the characters in this film.
I probably knew 20 guys just like both of them.
As a Gram Parsons fan of many years I was eagerly awaiting the appearance
this movie. Finally, having read brief snippets about it on-line and in
magazines over the last year, I finally got the chance to see it at the
Dublin International Film Festival in Feb 2004.
This is not a straight bio-pic of Gram's life, nor does it attempt to be. It is a good-natured, affectionate comedy road-movie that is based on the recollections of Phil Kaufman, who was Gram's 'executive nanny' in the last couple of years of his life and who made the strange pact with GP that is the focus of this film.
Phil Kaufman is played by Johnny Knoxville in his first lead role. Strange choice, you may think? Well, I was sceptical too, but Knoxville turns in quite a competent performance, effectively conveying the close bond that existed between Kaufman and Gram. But his companion in the coffin-thieving escapade steals the show - a hippy going through drug withdrawal, played with a subtle comic touch by Michael Shannon. Some of the characters in the film are fictional, not least the father figure of 'Stanley Parsons' and the Christina Applegate character 'Barbara'. This doesn't detract from the overall impact though. In order to simplify things, the writer and director decided not to incorporate the complicated Parsons family history into the film (few people seeing this movie will be aware of the existence of GP's step-father and his biological father). So the character we see is really Gram's biological father brought back to life, in order to witness the wonderful achievements that his son had made through creating his music.
And what about that music in the film? Well, I had shivers running up my spine when the full force of tracks such as 'Return Of The Grievous Angel' and '$1,000 Wedding' came over the sound system in the theatre. And there was almost a tear in me eye as the coffin went up in flames as 'A Song For You' played. A wonderful moment.
Hopefully people who have never heard of Gram Parsons and his music will go to see this movie because Johnny Knoxville is in it, or simply because it's a fine, lovingly crafted low-budget comedy drama. And they may well come out converts to GP's fantastic music. As for us Gram fans, well it's a must see - touching, funny, poignant and a suitably fitting tribute.
"Grand Theft Parsons" is the story of the kidnapping of Gram Parsons'
body by Phil Kaufman, his friend and road manager, to fulfill the
country music legend's wish to be cremated in the California desert.
Thanks in large part to terrific performances by Johnny Knoxville (as
Kaufman), Christina Applegate, and Michael Shannon, and side splitting
cameos by Mary Pat Gleason, Jonathan Slavin, and Clint Culp, writer
Jeremy Drysdale and director David Caffrey manage to pull off the
rarest of feats a factually based black comedy that not only
succeeds, but triumphs, hilariously yet tastefully.
The tale begins with Parsons' drug overdose in the cheap motel in Joshua Tree, California. Kaufman dupes the reluctant Larry Osterberg (Shannon), a drug addled, yoga practicing hippie, to drive the latter's psychedelic hearse to the LA airport to pick up what Osterberg thinks is an empty coffin. The comedic chemistry between these two, as they encounter crisis after crisis trying to snatch the body and bring it back to Joshua Tree, is perfect - reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy. Among the obstacles they have to contend with are Parsons' gold digging ex-girlfriend (Applegate), who needs a death certificate to cash in on an informal will leaving her everything, and Parsons' father (Robert Forster), who has flown from New Orleans to pick up the body.
The movie is not without flaws. The Applegate role is purely fictional, and Parsons' real father died when he was a boy. But these characters add humor to the plot and depth to the characterization of Parsons (like all 70s rock stars, he was considered something of a womanizer), so they can easily be overlooked in the name of artistic license. And, there are some parts of the story that are not credible at all. I doubt that a body could be loaded for transport without a valid death certificate, and I've never seen a hotel bathroom that could be locked from the outside. But these are minor cavils.
Whether you're a Parsons devotee (like me), or have never heard of him (like my father, with whom I watched the film), I can just about guarantee that you'll enjoy "Grand Theft Parsons".
Baseball references have nothing to do with this movie, except to serve
as an analogy.
Johnny Knoxville surely has proved himself as a talented actor. Hopefully Hollywood will take note and give him more than Luke Duke. I'm sure he'll shine as a Duke boy, but Knoxville can handle more. I can totally see him taking on the Edward Norton kind of roles.
I knew nothing about Gram Parsons before watching this, but I enjoyed the small lesson. The opening says something to the effect that while it is based on true events, it has been embellished. But in the extras the writer says that is exactly how it happened. I don't buy the latter. There are a few things that just can't happen, but it still makes for one hell of a joyride.
This is a great Weekend discovery. Watch it and you won't be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Seems like the comments range from big Gram fans who think it's
"disgraceful to Gram's memory" (and a bad flick to boot) and those that
barely/never heard of him who think it's a funny road film. I'm a big
fan of Gram's music that says to hell with the facts, it was a funny,
enjoyable film. And some say there wasn't enough of Gram's music in the
film...well, duh, it's a soundtrack, not a musical, and there can never
be enough Gram Parsons music for us fans :-)
And to the ones who complain about how can Gram Parsons' dad be in the movie when he died when Gram was 12, all I can say is I don't think he really was in the movie. He leaves the motel 5 seconds before everyone else, and they say "Where'd he go?", so I think that leaves the door open to say that it was the ghost of Gram's dad there. Everything else before that must have been some sort of Star Trek alternate universe/time-line thing. OK, so I'm willing to suspend my belief more than most :-)
So just sit back, and enjoy the ride. It really is a decent flick. Oh, and go buy the albums...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a really decent film. I, of course, was led to it by being a
big fan of Gram Parsons. I did hear about the craziness that surrounded
his death and burial, and was delighted to hear that they made a movie
about it. As with most films that are based on a true story, a lot of
people were bothered by the liberties taken in the plot and the
characters. However, they do warn you at the beginning of the film. So,
it's just like those uptight parents that write letters to the FCC, if
you don't like it, change the channel (or in this case, walk out of the
theater, or turn off your TiVo or DVR, or throw away the DVD). A lot of
people were bothered that this film was not focused on Gram's life.
Well, if you want that, watch the "Fallen Angel" documentary. Either
way, you were warned, so stop complaining and just enjoy this film
Good, I feel better now that I've got that out of the way.
First off, this film is superbly acted. Johnny Knoxville as Parsons' "road mangler" Phil Kaufman, Michael Shannon as Larry Oster-burg, the stoned-out hippie owner of the psychedelic hearse, and Christina Applegate as Parsons' psychotic ex-girlfriend after his money, all breathe so much life into their characters, even if you want to hate all 3 of them for various reasons, at various points in the film.
Gabriel Macht, whom every movie buff would remember from the god-awful 'The Spirit', was the perfect choice to play Gram. Compare any photo of Macht to the photo of Gram Parsons on the cover of the 'Grievous Angel' album. It's uncanny, I tell ya!
Although some jokes are fairly obvious, there is plenty of subtlety. This film definitely warrants repeated viewings, because you definitely won't get all of the jokes the first time around.
One of the funniest scenes is when the hearse hits a road sign and the two are met by a state trooper, who then toys with the two by describing that he's looking for "2 guys in a bright yellow hearse, with a coffin in the back". Even though it's quite obvious to Phil and the cop that they're as good as screwed, the Hippie still tries his best to convince the cop otherwise, all the while still trying to remain oblivious to the fact that they just hit a road sign! Priceless!
The film has a lot of heart, yet somehow keeping the comedy front-and-center while the most emotionally gut-wrenching of scenes take place. If this film can be summed up, it's grief over a loss, yet finding laughter in the darkest of places. The exchange between Phil and Stanley, Gram's father, meeting up at the Joshua Tree Motel is a perfect example. They both share their mutual guilt for not being there for Gram, which prompts a slightly off-the-wall speech from the Hippie that ends with a heart-warming revelation about the whole situation.
But the real tearjerker moment is when Phil brings Gram to his final resting place, and as soon as Phil lights the fire, Gram's "A Song For You" starts playing over the soundtrack. Absolutely brilliant synthesis of music and film that encapsulates all of the feelings of this film in one single blaze of glory! A few minutes of lamentation and joy later, and then with another burst of flame, we're brought back to earth in an instant. Gram having the last laugh from beyond the desert bonfire.
Which brings me to another point. Some films relating to musical figures tend not to use their music for certain reasons. Shoestring budgets, unable to get permission or licensing, among other reasons. This film seems more authentic because they went the extra mile and got some of Gram's songs ("$1000 Wedding", "Return of the Grievous Angel", "A Song For You", among others, as well as a superb cover version of "Hot Burrito #2" by Starsailor). The soundtrack is also peppered with some other great music of the time (Country Joe & The Fish, Eddie Floyd, Rory Gallagher), as well as some other music that may be newer, but actually fit the film really well (Bruce Springsteen's tune "Blood Brothers" was made in 1996, as well as contributions by newer bands Primal Scream, Soundtrack of our Lives, and of course the aforementioned Flying Burrito Brothers cover by Starsailor).
So, it may not be a film for everybody, but for everybody who "gets it", this will be highly enjoyable. But if you don't "get it", that's fine too. This may not be your cup of tea. Unfortunately, I don't know any other films quite like this one. This is a very unique story, done in a very unique way.
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