Dusty Rhodes (Bailee Madison) & her grandfather (Pat Boone) rely on their faith & each other while her parents serve in the Afghanistan War.Dusty Rhodes (Bailee Madison) & her grandfather (Pat Boone) rely on their faith & each other while her parents serve in the Afghanistan War.Dusty Rhodes (Bailee Madison) & her grandfather (Pat Boone) rely on their faith & each other while her parents serve in the Afghanistan War.Dusty Rhodes (Bailee Madison) & her grandfather (Pat Boone) rely on their faith & each other while her parents serve in the Afghanistan War.Dusty Rhodes (Bailee Madison) & her grandfather (Pat Boone) rely on their faith & each other while her parents serve in the Afghanistan War.
Bailee Madison's Dusty Rhodes, full of action and optimism, is a peacemaker, wanting to make friends in her new high school. Somewhat inexplicably, she doesn't find other students like herself but seemingly becomes determined to win over a group of girls who drink and don't even like her at first. Dusty is resilient, determined, earnest, hard-working, and protective of others, with a strong faith in God, but she is growing up and finding that life isn't always fair or good. How could a loving God allow these things to happen? Why are good people allowed to suffer? How do we maintain our hope and keep our faith strong in today's world? These are tough questions, and Dusty finds her faith shaken.
Luckily, Dusty has a grandfather, played with warmth and gentleness by Pat Boone, and his wise counsel holds Dusty together. His scenes were my favorites, as his character had the strength to put things right and step up for the people who needed him. His gallant charm is the heart of the movie. As a bonus, older audience members will remember his teen idol years with fondness and enjoy his character in this.
The third lead character, Savannah, adds a touch of grit and realism to Dusty's life. Savannah, unlike Dusty, doesn't have a stable, loving family: her father was killed in the war three years earlier, and she can no longer make ends meet. As a result, they are losing their home. Bitter, yet drawn to Dusty's welcoming friendliness in spite of herself, Savannah throws herself into the equestrian drill team that Dusty wants to form, and the two become good friends, along with Savannah's clique and a boy who works at the ranch. Chloe Lukasiak (of TV's "Dance Moms") plays Savannah with just the right nuances, providing a necessary sharpness to a movie that is almost too sweet at times. As Dusty becomes intrigued with Savannah and wants to know her better, we see a complicated girl who has her guard up, tough one moment with a fragile smile the next as she tries to cope with her problems. Her bitterness, we learn, is justified, and there are a few unexpected twists as her story-line pays out. I was impressed with the fearless way Lukasiak, a relative newcomer to acting, was capable of showing multiple layers and subtext, sometime with just her eyes or small movements.
The ranch scenes lend a beautiful setting and atmosphere as we see the teens bonding into a tight pack while working together on their common goal. Dusty's relationship with her horse provides an outlet for her anxiety and grief about her parents' deployment. Filmed on a real working ranch in Southern California, the scenes provide a backdrop as a sweet romantic relationship begins for one of the girls, while the other one finds a mutual attraction almost derailed by thoughtless banter. The neighs of the horses and open skies make the viewer feel like we've actually been to this place, and we can easily see how its charm and beauty worked magic on this group of teens.
Another favorite scene of mine was the school dance, as we see the group together in a social setting...and realizing that it's cool to be nice, too.
The script, as well as the movie itself, should have premiered and found a home on the Hallmark Channel, OWN, Disney, or any inspirational/ family-friendly network. Church youth groups would get a lot from it. Best of all, it is appropriate for all ages from children to senior citizens - without being overly sappy or predictable. It is rare these days to find a film in which God and faith are so openly discussed, and I found it refreshing.
- Jun 16, 2017