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This is a well-made and sincere film that avoids pat answers or
schmaltzy sentiment in favor of asking interesting questions everyone
faces in life - what makes happiness and what is its price - without
relying on melodrama or exploitation. The story is very simple and the
presentation very low-key with subtle, convincing performances and
great chemistry between the leads.
One of the things I realized after seeing it is that the story could very easily be about heterosexuals. It in no way looks to the gay community to provide some unique positive or negative trait. Lots of films make the festival rounds relying on stereotypes to carry them along but this is simply about people and love and I think anyone can connect with the themes it presents. Highly recommended to anyone interested in a touching story regardless of orientation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For the record, I am tired of calling movies I review predictable. I'm
beginning to think all the movies I watch are. So, with that in mind, I
cleared my mind to watch a "light-hearted" independent gay-themed,
romance film called Redwoods. Heck, I had a feeling, five-minutes in,
that this would be, yet another (incredibly) low-budget forced gay
tearjerker. So, I shut off the "critic" side of my brain and watched
the movie with an open mind.
It was cute (as was the lead star, Bradley!) and if you really let yourself go, like I did, you'll fall for this pair of lost souls, Chase (Montgomery) and Everett (Bradley.) And if you loved The Bridges of Madison County, like I did, you're sure to love this. (By the way, it's hard not to compare this to that Clint Eastwood/Meryl Streep classic it was virtually word-for-word that movie.) Obvious unhappy couple Everett and Miles (Coughenour) begin the movie when Miles takes their autistic son up to Seattle for a week, leaving Everett alone to meet wandering, free-spirit/novelist Chase within minutes. Again, here comes the predictability to their eventual budding romance and Everett questioning on whether he should remain with his unhappy life or take a risk with the drifter.
As I wrote, I turned off my analyzing brain and just allowed myself to watch and enjoy the movie. It was really sweet, it had a lot of soft romantic moments and somewhat good cinematography.
Once the movie was over, I had mixed feelings (so, I guess the critic inside was awakened.) On the one hand it did have the aforementioned good qualities, but on the other hand, a lot of it felt so, well, forced. The secondary characters were pushing so hard without barely an ounce of true acting, to enforce "good morals" or "feel-good" spots, that I felt I was watching an after-school special, albeit a nicely gay-packaged, after-school special. The "somewhat good cinematography" for the most part looked like it was filmed as an afterthought and inserted/edited in to the feature. Also, the ending was, indeed, out of left-field, though not 100% surprising. And finally, as much as I admire the filmmakers, writer/director and actors taking on a small independent film with a great backdrop, all I could think of was how many much better-made films I could rewatch.
Such as Brokeback Mountain and Big Eden movies that both contained true romance and real actors playing real (good) supporting roles to further both the story and drama along, and the already mentioned The Bridges of Madison County. Yet, I would still recommend this harmless little picture. Not really as the tearjerker it wants to be, but as a gay themed light entertainment with some good eye-candy. (I am human, after all.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After seeing this flick and reading the reviews I wonder if we saw the same movie. It is obvious that the director tried to shamelessly fashion this garbage after the masterpiece 'Brokeback Mountain' by using nature as backdrop to the story but has failed miserably. This film is so superficially shallow, loaded with cheap sentimental clichés, and unbelievable holes in the script. It is just another one in a long list of American gay cinema failures. Have any of these directors seen any French gay themed movies like 'It is only a question of love', or 'A love to hide' or any Asian gay movie which has a plausible and well told story? The characters are not well developed (same goes for the plot) and so unbelievable that at no point did I sympathize with them or cared about their fate. The dialog is predictable, boring, and too pedestrian for my taste. The relationships are not fully explained nor do they seem realistic; two gay men have a son in a rural America (and everybody seems fine with it?!), the son stops speaking for some never truly explained reason, the main protagonists' love affair happens (and deepens) within a matter of few days only, their dialog could have been lifted from any cheap hetero romance novels, etc There is a legitimate reason why these actors have not made into mainstream movies: they have neither charisma nor talent.
I am sorry, I was really thinking hard about an other summary for this
article, however there is nothing else I can say but that this film is
just one of the worst movies I have ever seen...
Maybe it is just the sugar-sweetness of it. The looks the characters exchange, the way they are dressed, combed, the way the camera moves... it just gives me the creeps of surreality! The writing is mediocre and I wanted to stop watching it however kind of hoped it is going to get better during the movie... it did not. It just got more and more honey-romantic... without any substance. I cannot say that the characters were interesting or engaging. Brendan Bradley is just looking really weird with his puppy eyes and holding his elbow - which I suppose should be a character tick of some significance (maybe his insecurity and innocence) but it just makes me wanna shake that man to his senses! I kind of liked the way the writers put loopholes into the screenplay making it not all to laid out for us... oh, that was not intentional... ups... and there were like two or three moments of a light shining through the darkness of these dialogs but other than that - I had my vomit bucket prepared.
One amazing peace: the harmonica! OMG! If you please introduce an element within the writing, make sure there is a significance to it. Also, make your actors practice it, so at least the one character bringing it in, has an attachment to it!
Also, why the supporting cast was even there... no clue. This could have just been even cheaper movie without them. The mother and the B&B owner or even the brother (was he just signed up because he could get naked in front of the camera?). Oh, speaking of sex - I kind of surprisingly liked the undressing scene - it was kind of all what this movie was not - realistic.
I am not saying there only has to be realistic movies but this movie was so off the charts for me I could not give it more than 2 stars out of 10: one for the undressing and the other one for the nature.
I've seen all four of the movies that this writer/director has written
and they are all strangely compelling. So much so that I'll continue to
follow his work and hope that he continues to improve.
When I was much younger I would cross a set of taconite dotted railroad tracks on the way to school. Taconite is a rough form of iron ore that contains valuable iron ore but in quantities so small that it was once deemed uneconomical to mine.
Thinking of this writer/director's work reminded me of that ore. There is good stuff here but with the abundance of other, more readily appreciated, options available today, most will fail to see the value in this.
This time around there were a number of adorable characters that had really sweet moments and some wonderful plot points surfaced that had great potential. But there were also a number of flaws that might have been fixed if the writer and director had been two separate people with individual perspectives.
It might be stretching things to call this a "diamond in the rough" but there were definitely brilliant, touching moments in this film. Enough so that I enjoyed it when I wasn't considering the "might have beens."
Personally, I've always been a bit fascinated by the taconite and I'll continue to follow this guy's work. Hopefully as his work becomes more refined, I'll find it even more compelling.
This is one of the best gay romance films I've seen, and I've been working my way through everything in that genre on NetFlix. It really transcends the genre, because nothing happens in it that couldn't happen to a non-gay couple. It's the kind of romance they made in the thirties. The two leads burn up the screen, even when they aren't in the throes of passion; the chemistry between them is genuine and affecting. The acting is of a consistently high quality; the directing is immaculate; the screenplay is full of nice touches and believable dialog; and for once the sound quality doesn't belie a low indie budget. Indeed, the credits list Skywalker Sound, so the budget isn't as low as some. And for those who care about such things, Everetts' brother Shane provides a moment of situational eye-candy. Altogether, this can be recommended highly to anyone who enjoys a genuine encounter between two loving people. 8/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WARNING: This review contains major SPOILERS!! I just finished watching this movie and I have to say overall I liked it. I think Shelter is a better gay/romance movie though. The scenery in Redwoods is very beautiful, and I really really like Brendan Bradley. Matthew Montgomery grew on me as the film went on. My complaints are the following: The music is totally hokey. There were some scenes that were supposed to be kinda light-hearted moments and the music was really cartoonish during these scenes and I found it to be really distracting. There was a lot of times where I thought the character's actions and dialog seemed a bit unnatural. Some of the things that the characters said and did didn't seem realistic to me. Especially the scene where the mother tells the son about her own long ago extra-marital indiscretions. I don't believe that conversation would ever have really happened. I think she should have offered advice to the son and then maybe we could have seen her looking at the man's hidden picture and reading a secret love letter from long ago to show that she understands what the son is going through. After she tells him about the affair he asks, "Do you still think of him?" and I couldn't help but roll my eyes and say back "Obviously she does or she wouldn't be talking about him now years later." Everett and Chase have an argument that seems to come out of nowhere and then they suddenly decide they are so angry and frustrated with each other and the situation that they just have to go lay down right that moment and take a nap. Everett's brother strips completely naked in the middle of a conversation after the family dinner I guess he is some kind of exhibitionist but what importance was it to the story?? And would someone just strip down while talking to their brother like that? It is never explained why Everett returns to Miles after packing his bag and leaving to find Chase. He finds Chase and the viewer is lead to believe they will run off together but the next scene (5 years later) and Everett is still with cold as ice and uptight Miles. (What the hell?) I can only guess he stays for the little boy but have these people never heard of shared custody? There are two scenes of completely gratuitous full frontal male nudity such as the one mentioned above, the other when Miles throws his robe off and then stands naked while he nags Everett about clipping his toenails over the carpet and griping over mold in the shower. The scene does show how uptight and trite Miles is but he didn't need to be naked. I felt the two nude scenes only succeeded in cheapening the film as a whole. I'm no prude, and I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy some nice male eye candy, but it just didn't seem to fit in here. It was kinda random. I was actually disappointed that it was even shown. The writer/director , David Lewis, obviously didn't believe in his own film enough, it was like he felt he had to throw in the nudity to get attention. I know it sounds like I didn't like this movie, but I did. The characters Everett and Chase are both very likable and the actors have good chemistry. I fault the writer/director for any of things I didn't like. I look forward to seeing Brendan Bradley in other films. =)
The problem with most gay indie films is that they tend to be
low-budget amateur productions. Amateur writing, amateur directing,
amateur actors....they often come across as extended student films, but
it is sadly the only way that most of these films would ever get made
because the big Hollywood studios are still hesitant about "doing gay".
Once in a blue moon we'll get a big studio release like Brokeback
Mountain, but such films are few and far between.
Redwoods is very much a typical gay indie film in that it comes across as an amateur production made for a margin audience that still doesn't have much product in their niche marketplace to choose from. Perhaps "semi-professional" is a more polite term than "amateur", and given its obvious limitations it is by no means a terrible film, but it isn't a good film either. The script could have stood another rewrite or three (particularly to cut down on the number of times where the characters say each others names in their conversations, which sounds painfully false). The director could have rehearsed his actors more thoroughly (though better casting would have been preferable), and also gotten a bit more coverage from his cinematographer for a wider variety of shots to cut to, not to mention looking over his editor's shoulder and insisting on a few more cuts here and there to avoid the often dreary static effect that ruins many scenes. And I am certainly not a prude, but the full frontal nudity in the film was both out of place and completely unnecessary. Whether this was an attempt to titillate or to try to make the film more of an "arthouse" piece remains a mystery, but it was a desperate move regardless - and it shows. Of course, the writer and the director of this production are one and the same person, and so he must take the biggest share of the blame for the film's failings. As all artists should, hopefully he will learn from his mistakes and go on to make something better.
However, the biggest problem with the film is that, from beginning to end, it is a shameless rip-off of The Bridges of Madison County. Unfortunately, Brendan Bradley is no Meryl Streep, and making the story between two men rather than a man and a woman does not give this film enough of a distinction by itself. Had the film just loosely borrowed from "Bridges" rather than directly copying it, I might have been more forgiving, but a rip-off is a rip-off. In the film's favour, it at least gave the audience some decent photography of the redwood forests of northern California, though sadly this doesn't save the film from mediocrity. Perhaps it is unfair to be so critical of small independent films such as these due to their low budgets and often inexperienced personnel, although 2007's Shelter managed to rise above its humble indie beginnings and became a minor classic due to the sheer talent of its cast and crew. With better care, forethought and finesse from all involved, Redwoods could well have reached similar heights, but unfortunately it just doesn't make the grade.
I watched this movie on my Android phone while waiting on a plane. So,
I'll give you it was likely not the most flattering environment. That
being said, I have always enjoyed TLA movies and have come to expect a
high quality product from them. Redwoods started out looking to be
consistent with that expectation. However, not too far into the movie,
I realized that this was going to be an exception as this was a gay
setting of "The Horse Whisperer" Evidently, TLA has a requirement that
includes showing some frontal male nudity (I don't mind), but in this
flick, it seemed to be so show "D-word" for the sake of "D-word".
Neither of the actors who showed all were that inspiring naked. The
love scene between the two main characters was built up nicely and some
gratuitous frontal nudity would have been perfect, but alas we weren't
There were a few scenes that left one wondering "WTF". An example was the father/son moment in the antique store. I can only assume that the scene's cliché dialogue was inspired by the antique store itself. Mercifully, however, the editors did spare us the moments of possible redundancy by cutting into scenes where other characters are being let in on the story. Through most of the movie, we were led to believe that Evrett was caught up in a bad relationship where he and his partner stayed together "for the children". By the end of the movie an amazing and unbelievable transformation seemed to occur.
I realize that these movies are low budget and in this case, the score (which was nice) featured solo piano and synthesized instrumental tracks that sounded like they were taped on a 1980's K-mart Casio keyboard. I think they could have put out money for a bit better quality of instrument, if not a real orchestra.
Lastly, the story (a gay version of "Horse Whisperer") was a nice love story. It was a bit slow, but held my attention and I honestly was interested to see how it all ended up. The ending was sweet and pleasantly unexpected. The only thing I would changed would be to invest in some footage showing the changing of seasons to help the audience understand that years were passing.
All in all, this was a nice movie and worth a watch.
Once again I feel somewhat cheated by a story with so much potential - like a baby in saddling clothes this team of actors with the complicity of the director slowly drowned whatever genuine motivation and progression in the story on a number of fronts: dialogue, camera shots, pregnant moments of stillness turned in to thundering lead weights that smothered. There was a belief stated by Montgomery that his partner in the story had immediate chemistry - I would suggest that this was perhaps misplaced - and in fact there was a little but they were such good actors they managed to act it out of every scene. Everyone in the film seemed to be 'straight acting'- even the father and brother...they all seemed to be closeted in their roles - I would suggest that the two brothers had the best chemistry and one of them was miscast - they both would have done a better job as the two lovers. Montgomery is an appalling shallow actor of limited ability - unable to display emotion or sensuality - and when he does it has a sleazy whiff about it. Brendan Bradley has a great camera presence and if given stronger direction would produce great work - sadly the potential he shows is patchy and uneven - further thrown into horrible relief by the other supporting 'actors' - the most notable of all was the son - who I thought might be the best of a bad bunch. All in all I am sad to see the American Gay Film tradition is being flooded by this type of low level production, poor scripting and equally incompetent directing - it denigrates our stories and apes historical cinema graphic archetypes too Closely - whilst our stories have common threads and motivations of 'The others' there is a dire need to ensure that they are performed and directed by skilled technicians who know when they are not up to par and all the main actors making a real effort to fill in the space with real depth of charaterisation that sits around and beyond the words on the paper rather than just 'acting'and sleep walking through their parts. There was a real story here - when did they make the decision not to give it a real voice? It all seemed rather rushed, unrehearsed and worst: cheap - do better next time. When I see another effort by this director I hope I can be bothered to watch.
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