A drama that swoops in on Empire Falls, an economically depressed mill town in Maine, and lifetime resident Miles Roby, who's run the town's top restaurant for some twenty years. Miles is surrounded by his newly thin wife, meddling father, and hostile boss.Written by
This is about the film. I haven't read the book. So, my take is strictly to the point of commenting on the movie version of the story.
I enjoyed this film for the scenic locations and amazing cast artfully giving us the complex characters of the story.
If you have never been to New England, take it from a recent transplant from Southern California, it is all and more than you imagine or see in the movies. I lived in San Diego for the first 45 years of my life and moved to rural Massachusetts 4 years ago and plan to stay for the second half of my life. This film captures real locations that I have visited in my travels around New England. It's a different world on this side of the country. Not better. Not worse. What is most different is that the everyday landscape just pops out at you in endless contrasts. This film does an excellent job of capturing that.
The intricate stories in this movie develop carefully as details are revealed deftly in smooth transitions to flashbacks. The characters each hold a special interest and stake in the dynamics of life in a town overshadowed by a rich, vengeful widow (Joanne Woodward) wielding her will as she (you-would-think) supposedly struggles with her own guilt. This facet of her character is not easily given up by Joanne Woodward.
Woodward surprises in the unfortunate way she delivers her role in a rather formal style of acting that pre-dates most films made after 1960. She says her lines as if on stage and doesn't really play "in frame" to the camera. Her scenes seem oddly out of sync in the film.
The other actors are thoroughly convincing and imaginative in their portrayals. The motivations and demeanors are all clearly understood even with some of the deliciously portrayed complexities of the characters. The scenes with Ed Harris (as Miles Roby) and William Fichtner (playing Jimmy Minty) are masterfully acted to reveal numerous layers in each character's persona. There is so much more than just dialog going on in those scenes. I'ts absolutely convincing.
Helen Hunt (as frustrated and angry ex-wife, Janine Roby) is just a tiny bit off center in this role. She seems to be trying too hard and ends up all over the place from a crass broad with no humor to a painfully inept mother with no mother's instincts. Her shallow portrayal doesn't allow for much sympathy. Throughout, she just isn't believable. But, you go along because it's Helen Hunt.
The back story of the abandoned high school kid, John Voss, (compellingly acted by Lou Taylor Pucci) and the Roby's daughter (Danielle Panabaker) adds an unusual twist to the story. I can't give away details. But, I think the Voss character needed more attention in the film. We want to know more about him.
The production seems to unravel near the end when it wraps up rather abruptly with the epilogue. Anyone would think they should have taken it farther. It doesn't feel like there is closure even though you know what happens. It's not necessarily clear. Maybe the answer is in the book. Maybe something was edited out for time's sake.
The Special Features are okay. I enjoyed Paul Newman's comments on how much he enjoyed staying in the town where this was filmed in Maine. He mentioned staying in the town and making some new friends.
I'll bet he liked that little harbor side restaurant that was in a few scenes when going to and from Martha's Vineyard. The restaurant is actually in Hyannis on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I've been there 5 times. Great lobstah at that restaurant. The ferry landing to the Vineyard is just a short walk away.
I enjoyed this series quite a bit on many levels. There is not any one thing that sticks out. It is a high quality production all around. I will watch it again.
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