Dirs. Perry Moore/Hunter Hill, 2008, US, 92 minutes .
Lake City sets its earnest prodigal son story in a small southern town. When black sheep Billy (Garity) comes home with a young boy to his mother, Maggie (Spacek), a violent drug war follows him. Southern novelist Thomas Wolfe may have written 'You can't go home again', but in this story Billy is certainly back in his family's spacious house, hiding with a knapsack full of dope.
Spacek's neglected fans could flock to this tear-jerker if it gets past the festival circuit and into theatres. Troy Garity (son of Jane Fonda and the political activist Tom Hayden) could also be a curiosity for the indie audience. The music crowd could join the mix, with singer Dave Matthews in the role of a ruthless drug dealer. Yet chances are slim that Lake City will break out beyond the independent circuit, if this small, well-intentioned first feture that borders on the preachyever breaks in. Home video for Spacek and Matthews fans could still be an additional market.
In the opening scene, Billy escapes being tortured by thugs who are looking for his addict girlfriend. In tow is young Clayton (Colin Ford), who turns out to be his son. Before Billy reaches his mother's place, he's stopped by a beautiful cop, Jennifer (Romijn), an old flame who becomes a new love interest.
Rebellious Clayton clashes with Maggie and Billy in the family home, where the room of another son who died in a childhood accident is kept as a shrine. Soon the house comes under siege from Clayton's drug-addled mother (de Matteo) and the dealers whose drugs she stole. All the while Billy and Maggie are still living in the shadow of the death of Billy's brother years before - for what's a southern saga without a dark secret'
Moralism weighs heavily for first-time writer/directors Perry Moore and Hunter Hill. So heavily, that if you don't get the film's ardent endorsement of family, small town values, and motherhood, Aaron Zigman's plaintive score nudges you towards it again and again. So does the golden light that shines at key moments onto beatific mater dolorosa Spacek at the window of her dead son's room.
DP Robert Gantz targets today's clash between the old and new South, contrasting the soft contours of the Virginia hills and the warm interiors of the family home with the grimy motels where drug dealers like Red (Matthews) sell dope to addicts and bludgeon those who don't pay.
As the matriarch of a family at risk, Spacek practices a tough love that brings complexity to the sweet soft demeanor that's long been her signature. She is believable as a woman, just told that she's a grandmother, watching drug dealers trying to kill her grandson. In the scramble to outrun the thugs, which runs parallel to teary family reunion, Garity has some tender moments as the renegade son struggling to protect his own child. Matthews plays Billy's drug dealing nemesis on one violent note, but manages to conjure up fear nonetheless when onscreen. Couldn't Moore and Hill have thought of another name for his redneck character besides Red'
The directors commit a common first-timers' mistake and confuse emotion with intensity, which makes this family's ordeal a tempestuous trip for the audience that follows it for 90 minutes. It's a predictable hymn to motherhood and small town pluck, yet one of the movie's few strengths is that we're never sure which of its characters will be left standing.
Mark Johnson Productions
Lake City Productions
The Film Sales Company
Perry Moore and Hunter Hill
Drea de Matteo