Years ago, Scott left common lover Katherine at the altar to become a hedonistic junkie. She married his brother William, a successful Louisiana workaholic, who sired a daughter but probably not bright nerd son Charles and is serially adulterous on his many business trips. Now Scott returns on horseback, having lost his drivers permit, inviting himself and proving a popular, yet unreliable uncle for Charles. Making up with father is impossible due to Alzheimer. As Scott keeps surprising his family, his sad secret emerges. Written by
"Straight A's" is a simple family drama. The mysterious Uncle Scott (Ryan Phillippe) and his drug use and slacker attitude is a bad influence on the Henderson kids. Uptight Katherine (Anna Paquin) just wants him out of the house and wants her distant husband William (Luke Wilson) back home. The kids are pretty separate from all of this - they have their own story line where Scott shows them that "there's more to life than getting straight A's."
"He loves her; she loves his brother" - the tag line from the film's poster suggests that it's a comedy. Because that's just how love triangles usually play out. But here they went for drama. The drama of a marriage in trouble, the drama of strained family relations and the drama of an immature adult teaching life lessons to children. These are three different themes and stories, and the amateur editing didn't do them any favours. The parts don't add up to a greater whole even though they look like they could be fairly compelling.
The main problem as others have alluded to is that it just interesting enough. The actors are all good. Ryan Phillippe in particular is channelling a young Brad Pitt with a Texas accent, a swagger and killer looks to support that swagger. Anna Paquin is way more grown up than we've seen her before - mature with a subdued but strong determination. Unfortunately Luke Wilson is left to fend for himself since all his scenes are removed from the Southern family dynamic.
The kids are really just used as filler (and for some reason the title as well) probably to help ground the adult drama - to give their relationship dynamics more substance. But I would like to think that if the character of Scott was solidified a bit more he could have done that himself. Scott is a little strange - sees the image of his dead mother, and it's hard to say what his intentions are with Katherine. At least he's sweet and funny when he's with the kids.
"Straight A's" has some structure and pacing issues - it moves way too slowly at times. I also think that's what holds the story back. The family definitely has things to say about family dynamics; some of which get dragged out with lack of interest, some of which are a little strange but also a little bit intriguing, and some of which have been told before but there isn't much harm in telling them again. The film is a little too staid to appeal to many people but those who like the Texas/Louisiana culture with some country twang to their family drama should like it a lot.
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