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Zooey Deschanel is quite easily the most interesting thing about this
movie. It is slowly paced. It is an examination of one woman's journey
through an emotional roadblock. There are many aspects of this film
that are out of place and a bit frivolous, all indications of a young
or new filmmaker. However, I think it deserves more credit that the
This film surprised me with its various nuances, many of which are the difference between a love affair with New York City and the hate that develops when it's inhabitant realizes just how wonderful (and horrible) home can be. In addition to that, it has been some time since a film was able to be charming without being too forced, something I think they do not ultimately achieve, but it is not without merit.
As mentioned above, it is worth the price of admission to watch Zooey Deschanel work her way from solipsistic bitch to humbled and hurt woman. She is raw, honest, fun, and a bit of a fu*k up. Ed Harris brings her character a bit more alive, but he himself it not at his best. As an actor he does a fine job, though I have a feeling he was left out to dry a bit by the young director. Will Ferrel almost makes his way through without being funny, though he is not removed enough from his Saturday Night Live characters to really pull through. The audience I was with seemed to love him. I nearly didn't see the movie because he was in it.
When it comes down to it this film is a first-time film director used to working in a theater medium. The writing is strong, the story interesting and for all it's pit-falls and loop-holes, it still manages to make an emotional impact. Give it a second chance.
Greetings again from the darkness. When writers attempt to tackle too
many themes in one story, usually none are complete. Writer and
Director Adam Rapp (brother Anthony is of "Rent" fame and has a brief
cameo in this one) is extremely ambitious as he explores parenthood,
artistic genius, friendship, community, guilt and the desire to feel
love and pain. Surprisingly Rapp is mostly successful in pulling off a
most complex script.
Ed Harris stars as a reclusive writer with more than a nod to J.D. Salinger (his last name is Holden ... get it?). In poor health and being taken care of by a former student (Amelia Warner) and a broken down rhythm guitarist (Will Ferrell), Harris is taken aback when his long lost daughter (Zooey Deschanel) shows up one day. Drastically altering the dynamics of this bizarre little community, Deschanel literally steals the film. She spills her soul on screen and we somehow understand her habit of slamming her hand in a drawer just to feel something. She is a pitiful person seeking redemption and her place in life.
Harris and Warner are fine in their roles, but Ferrell is a real distraction. As a viewer, we don't see the character. We see Will Ferrell on screen ... acting goofy and clumsily mumbling his lines. His open mike night could easily have been an SNL skit. This movie would have been much better with a straight forward actor in this role. That said, I still have faith Ferrell will succeed as a dramatic actor. If Robin Williams could make the transition, surely Elf can.
If you might enjoy multi-layered story telling, a tremendous performance by Zooey and can look past Will Ferrell, this movie has a lot to offer.
Though the cover for the DVD of WINTER PASSING (a photo of the four
main characters crowded into a box) may make many potential viewers
pass over this little film, thinking that it must be silly slapstick,
this is a fine film written and directed with finesse and style by Adam
Rapp, a new face whose talents have been somewhat limited to working on
episodes of the TV series 'The L Word'. Rapp gives notice of a fine
writer and an equally fine director in this barely noticed little
Reese Holdin (Zooey Deschanel) lives in New York, an actress relegated to small parts in off Broadway theater while spending her days as a bartender hooked on alcohol, drugs and casual sex. Her life seems dead-ended: she has become anesthetized by her manner of living. An agent (Amy Madigan) approaches her with an offer to pay her for the letters between her parents, both once famous authors. Her mother has just died, and Reese didn't attend her funeral, so distant does she feel is her relationship to her past. But the spark of money moves her to ride a bus back to her Michigan home to salvage the letters to sell for publication.
Arriving home she is greeted by the weird Corbit (Will Ferrell), a Christian electric guitar player and composer who ears black eyeliner etc, but does care for Reese's severely alcoholic father - the once famous writer Don Holdin (Ed Harris) who hasn't written a novel in years and lives in the garage of his home under the care of Corbit and an ex-student Shelley (Amelia Warner), a bright very young girl with demons of her own. Reese works at reconnecting with her father, struggles with her resentment for the 'caregivers', and ultimately finds the letters she came for, only to make discoveries about her dysfunctional family and her father's status that alters her view of his value as her parent.
The movie is rather stagy and most of the action is unspoken, and while that technique of telling this particular story seems exactly right to this viewer, there are some who will feel frustrated at the rather static pace of the film. Zooey Deschanel once again proves that she is one of our finest actresses on the screen and hopefully this role will bring her to the attention of casting agents and result in our seeing more of this gifted actress in the future. Ed Harris is superb as the wasted, quietly grieving has-been author, keeping his performance understated and in doing so creating a character that is indelible in our minds long after the movie is over. Amelia Warner is also a fine little actress and even galumphing Will Ferrell brings more than his usual tiring comedic talents to this touching role. In all this is a movie that deserves wide attention. There is more to quietly hear and understand about interpersonal relationships than we would expect from the cover! Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Winter Passing is a world premier at the festival and the first feature
film from playwright and author Adam Rapp, who wrote the screenplay and
directed. The film follows Reese, a young actress played by Zooey
Deschanel, who returns home from New York when a book publisher asks
her to find the correspondence between her parents, both famous
authors. Reese is drifting through life, so detached that she takes to
slamming drawers on her hand just to feel something.
She travels to her family home in Michigan, only to find that her ailing and eccentric father (Ed Harris) has taken in one of his former grad students (Amelia Warner) and a former Christian rocker (Will Ferrell), after the death of his wife and Reese's mother. Reese's interactions with her father and the pseudo-family that has collected around him prompt her to expose her feelings about her childhood and relationship with her parents, and to come to terms with her own life.
I thought this was an excellent film, especially considering this was Rapp's directorial debut. Zooey Deschanel gives a wonderful, emotional performance as Reese, and Will Ferrell does a restrained, thoughtful turn as the rocker/handyman Corbit. Rapp's story and characters were interesting, and the occasional light comic moments provided a nice counterpoint to the dramatic, emotional story at the heart of the film. I thought this was a film well worth watching.
Writer/director Adam Rapp was present for a Q&A session after the film:
- The film came to being when Rapp was up for a grant through the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which had produced a couple of his plays. He came up with a synopsis for a four-character play set in the garage, and at the end, the garage door would open to reveal the furniture in the back yard. However, he didn't get the grant.
At the time, he had signed with a west coast agent who suggested he write a screenplay. This prompted Rapp to open the story up, starting with Reese's departure from New York. Once he had finished it, Rapp said he couldn't imagine anyone but him screwing it up.
- On the subject of casting, Rapp said he first wrote to Ed Harris, who called him back three days later saying he wanted to do the movie. Having Harris on board allowed Rapp to attract other actors to at least read the script.
At the time, Rapp shared the same agency with Will Ferrell. Rapp's agent suggested Ferrell for the film, but Rapp was hesitant because Ferrell was so big and was becoming very famous, and the character of Corbit is such a loner, kind of lost in the world, and trying to disappear, in many of the same ways as Ed Harris' character. But when Rapp met Ferrell, Ferrell was very decisive about how he wanted to do a small dramatic role, and he seemed to trust both the idea of it and Rapp, and they had a good rapport. Rapp added that Ferrell was one of the sweetest people he's ever met.
For Zooey Deschanel, Rapp had met with about 45 actresses, but felt that she had the kind of dynamics he was looking for, that she had an incredible intelligence, was very good with language, and at the same time had an incredible emotional life. Rapp also loved her work in David Gordon Green's film, All the Real Girls.
Rapp said that without the participation of Harris and Ferrell, they wouldn't have gotten the financing to make the film.
- Terry Stacey was the cinematographer, and he also did The Door in the Floor and In Her Shoes (which is also showing here at the festival). He was Rapp's mentor a lot early in the process when Rapp didn't know that much about film or its technical execution.
They sat together for about two months, talking about what films they liked and how they wanted it to look and move. Both are huge fans of 70's films like those by Bob Rafelson and Hal Ashby, and they talked about that, and how the camera would move, how it would become stiller as Reese became more still in her life.
Rapp said that Stacey works with a lot of first-time directors, so he felt really lucky, and that Stacey is one of the funniest people he's ever worked with, and the he wears a funny hat a lot.
- When asked if he considers the music in the film the landscape of Resee's psychology, Rapp said very much so, that the musical selections were very important (Rapp is also a musician). He felt the music carries the mood of the picture and Resee's inner life. Both Rapp and Meg Reticker, the editor, spent a lot of time listening to and experimenting with music. They worked to find a lot of female voices, like Cat Power and Dawn Landes, women around the same age as Reese, singing about things similar to what the character was going through in the movie.
- Asked about the scene where Harris and Ferrell are playing golf in a room in the house, Rapp said that he needed some way for Harris' character to destroy the room and turn it into something else, because the room was where he and his wife slept, and made love, and had their life. Rapp thought golf would be a theatrical sounding thing (the sound of the balls and showing the walls crumbling). It also establishes that Harris' character has an agoraphobic bent; he puts the furniture on the lawn and the house is turning into other things through the grief that is going on.
"Winter Passing" is a lot of things besides being a very good movie. I
don't want to miss the chance to say that it could have been a lot
better, but it is what it is and what it is, is what we get. In this
way, what we get is a very introspective portrait of sad and lonely
people; I know it doesn't sound right but that's all I'm going to say
about the film.
The thing is that when you love cinema, you watch films even if you don't know what they are about and you understand the nature of each movie; "Winter Passing's" nature is loneliness, not just its characters' but the sceneries' it's set in. In fact, it's one of the most contemplative and observing films I've seen this year.
No wonder the cinematography is by Terry Stacey from "The Door in the Floor"; it makes you watch He uses a lot of darkness and creates a mood so depressing that sometimes you can't figure out what's going on. But it is a good trick, because when the sun comes out (and you've been expecting it); Stacey's images look beautiful.
Adam Rapp, the man who directed and wrote the film, has a good narrative eye and we sense it constantly during the film, but he also has a talent for directing actors; and there's also credit to the casting directors for this: the most unusual small ensemble. A weird and special actress (Zooey Deschanel), a comedian (Will Ferrell), a character actor (Ed Harris), and a rising English young star (Amelia Warren) They all work perfectly together, because each of them understands the fragile situation of their character and the rest.
By the way, Harris is working really hard these days and has a lot of films we still haven't seen. And about Ferrell, I wanted to say this after watching "Blades of Glory", a regular and overrated film I didn't write about in which the comedian was the best element...Whether he does comedy or drama, his hair is long or short, black or brown; Ferrell always constructs his characters from zero. He picks little things and starts repeating them throughout a movie, to prove he is completely in character. You should pay close attention to his work in any film.
Rapp crafted a solid screenplay that's maybe a bit over sentimentalist, but he intelligently clarifies it in a crucial part of the movie. However, for a story so humane and real, he could have been harsher; because his elegant narration and images ask for it. However, in his piece, and like in the best dramas, things are said better by means of the images and not of the words; and that's always appreciated.
Also, if anything, "Winter Passing" is living proof that Zooey Deschanel is a fantastic actress; that when she wants she can leave eccentricity and also do great things (because she does great things when she's eccentric); that she can carry a whole movie by herself and that it should happen more often. But probably it won't, because she's one of the most down-to-earth people in the business, and she only works when it's worth it Too bad.
Winter Passing is remarkable for several reasons. The performances of Zooey Deschanel and Ed Harris are resonant and moving. The look and the music of the film are quite lovely and evoke a hurt, longing that works well with the theme of the film. And finally, the story itself is remarkable for anyone who's familiar with the life and enigma of the writer J.D. Salinger. For anyone who has read his daughter, Margaret Salinger's wonderful memoir, "Dream Catcher," the film will play like a thinly veiled reference to her life with the highly lauded and tragically flawed father who is a legend and inspiration to generations and a horror as a father.
This would have made a great short film, and I don't mean that as an
The idea of the plot is an interesting one, but didn't seem to hold my attention for the whole film, although the festival audience didn't seem to mind that much.
Adam Rapp is off to a good start as a director, it seems he hasn't done much, but I look forward to his next film. His work with the actors was marvelous, and the camera placement wonderful too. It's just that the story seemed a little, well, difficult to swallow. There's no missing the Salinger connection, and it seems as if every cliché about his life is crammed in here.
And as much as I love Will Farrell, his genius for comedy was somewhat of a distraction- it's just hard to believe him in this role. A solid actor without a public persona would have helped me stay in the story.
But overall, an enjoyable ride.
Imperfect, yes, but Winter Passing managed to involve me and charm me
without overstaying its welcome. A young woman barely in control of her
life returns home to her estranged father only to find that he is in
even less control of his. A redefined family searching for common
ground, the daughter unsure of a relationship long-strained and left to
wither. Some challenges and more than a little redemption.
Adam Rapp did not over reach on any of these subplots and the performances, particularly by Deschanel and Harris, are very substantial, although Will Farrell was an interesting choice for his character. Many will probably expect him to start doing something silly, as opposed to only mildly funny.
This is one of the best "films you've never seen" that I've come across lately.
Well worth a try.
What a nice film! The premise is simple: Actress Reese Holden (played by Zooey Deschanel) is offered a lot of money if she can get hold of letters written to and by her late mother and father, novelist Don Holdin (played be Ed Harris). Reese hasn't seen her father for a long time; she hadn't gone to her mother's funeral. Ed Harris, performing with sensitivity and rigour (as in Pollock and The Hours)gives a fine performance as the socially maladaptive, reclusive "genius" counterpointed by s dazed, bewildered, but protective Corbit (Will Ferrell, who gives a fine performance. I've just seen him in The Producers, and physically/vocally he is *completely* different. It's a good role.) Like Pieces of April, the film works with silences, visual cues, and verbal cues intertwined. It is a film which is worth concentrating in - and Zooey Deschanel's performance as Reese Holdin is excellent. She doesn't go over the top, rather it is through a subdued range that she succeeds in winning over the audience. Don't miss this film, or let it pass you by.
Winter Passing introduces a few great characters inside of an interesting family reconciliation plot, but fails to deliver with the results. Deschanel does a great job anchoring the film's emotional context as the very multidimensional, seemingly jaded Reese and the always dependable Ed Harris does more with one eye then many actors can emote during an impassioned speech. Will Ferrell however, despite being the go-to comedic relief in a very somber film, simply cannot disappear outside of himself enough as an actor to ever truly play a character other then his endless Saturday night live variations, and to me his awareness almost condescends the film's emotional impact. Nevertheless, the film will have you engaged in the offbeat family situation we are thrust into, only to have it become tied up way too neatly and quickly at the end. This lack of a thought out finale will make the emotional attachments made throughout the film with the main characters not as hard hitting as the movie perhaps intended, but still delivers a pretty solid, if a little unfulfilled, drama.
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