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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Maybe it's a Cloudbust

Ignatius of Antioch - Bishop & Martyr (107)

Last week -- after a very long wait -- we screened Cloudburst, a 2011 film of which Netflix apparently has one copy.

In my book, this film had three things going for it: Olympia Dukakis (playing gay, no less), Nova Scotia (playing itself), and a hot guy (Ryan Doucette).  How can you go wrong?

(from left) Olympia Dukakis, Ryan Doucette, Brenda Fricker
I wanted to see it at the Montclair Film Festival (especially because Dukakis was present for the screening) and wasn't able to get a ticket (probably because Dukakis was present at the screening).  She is a heroine in the town where she once lived and operated the Blooming Grove Theater Company.

The premise is as follows:  Stella (Dukakis) and her partner Dot (Brenda Fricker) have lived together for decades, but are being separated by Dot's granddaughter Molly (Kristin Booth) who is convinced that Dot's failing eyesight means Stella is incapable of caring for her, and she resorts to trickery and the fact that her husband is a cop (maybe the only cop in their small town) to get Dot away from Stella and into the rural Maine version of Shady Pines.

Emboldened by tequila, Stella hatches a plan to spring Dot, and they head off to Canada, with the idea of getting married.  Along the way, they pick up a hitch-hiker with the unlikely name of Prentice (Doucette).  Prentice is, inexplicably, almost always half-naked.  I have been to Maine and Nova Scotia:  It is not that hot, even in the summer. 

Prentice's story is that he left his dancing (modern, not exotic!) gig in NYC when he heard his mother was dying.  He's hitching his way back to Lower Economy (not be confused with Upper Economy) to see her.  He's a little nervous about exposing his parents to a lesbian couple, particularly since Stella has no filters and is regularly mistaken for a man.

When they arrive, Stella is sequestered in the truck, but Dot needs the rest room. Prentice gets her in the door and then apparently forgets about her as he sits eating cereal and talking to his mother (who -- other than a hacking cough -- seems well enough, and offers no explanation as to why Prentice was summoned home).  They quickly agree that he can't stay there (apparently they just had extra Cheerios they needed to finish). Dot gets herself into a bit of trouble I will not describe, which hastens their departure and leads to possibly the strangest scene in the movie.  Sufficient to say, we see more of the native twigs and berries than was really necessary.

Having given up his job to see his mother for ten minutes, Prentice seems remarkably calm about being homeless, unemployed, and having no plan for the future.  He agrees to accompany Dot and Stella into Canada and witness their wedding, perhaps in part for lack of anything better to do, but (I like to think) also out of a genuine desire to help them. He reveals a level of intelligence and complexity behind his initial trashy opportunism over the course of the film, as the couple's situation sparks some innate compassion and perhaps a sense of belonging he hasn't felt at home in a long time.

Of course things do not go entirely as planned.  They make it across the border with Prentice's dignity being about the only casualty, but cold feet lead to the seemingly counterproductive summoning of Molly, who tries once again to assert her will to keep the women apart.  The skirmish that follows leads to Dot finally getting to the root of what is driving Molly's behavior.  I will not spoil the ending, but it's not exactly happily-ever-after.

This quirky film kept me engaged, but the characters' seemingly self-defeating behavior both endeared them to me and made me want to understand their motives better than the film allowed.

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