Dir: Amy Talkington. US. 2006. 90mins.
Dallas native Amy Talkingtonmakes a largely entertaining feature debut with The Night Of The White Pants, a frenetic dysfunctionalfamily comedy whose best shot at attracting commercial attention is through itslikeable cast.
Set during one night inDallas, it does not cohere as tightly as this brand of multi-strand comedyshould in order to work and relies too heavily on shrill excess andintoxication to generate laughs. Still, there are several bright comic momentsand an engaging central performance from Tom Wilkinson as the Texas businessmogul on the downward slide.
World premiered at Tribeca last week, it could score a small theatricalrelease in the US based on its cast, comic underpinnings and punk soundtrack;overseas its profile will be dependent on festival bookings and possible musicfan appeal.
Wilkinson plays Max Hagan, aonce successful Texan businessman who is recovering from a bad heart attack,involved in an ugly divorce battle with his second young trophy wife Barbara(Turner) and at a loose end over what to do since he sold his company.
He lives with his disabledsister Lolly (Jewell) and his drug-addled son Millian (Kranz) who has movedback into the family house with his girlfriend. His uptight daughter Beth(Blair) is about to move away to New York where she is selling her small recordcompany to a larger label, but is reluctant to leave behind her boyfriend Raff(Stahl), a punk musician who is trying to sell a new software programme.
The night in question beginswhen Beth finally invites Raff to meet her family as part of an effort topersuade him to move to New York with her. The dinner that ensues is adisaster: Millian reveals to everyone that Raff ishis dope dealer before they are all evicted by the appearance of Barbara andthe police claiming ownership of the house.
Beth runs off furious at thenews that Raff deals drugs, while Max, in middle-aged white pants, accompaniesRaff to the club where his band is going to play. Entering a world of harddrinking and easy cocaine, Max loses his conservative demeanour and succumbs tothe advances of a groupie named Felicia (Jordan).
Max, Raff and Felicia leavethe club and stop at Max's house where they break in and steal money beforeheading off to find a judge to marry a couple of rockers. Meanwhile Max's firstwife Vivian (Fisher) is trying to get in touch with Max to rekindle the flameand has checked into the downtown hotel where they spent their wedding night.One by one, all the characters separately descend on the hotel for a lively andunexpected reunion.
The clash of culturesbetween conservative Max and the world of punk and drugs is an obvious one butit is made believable by Wilkinson who carries off his part with a splendidswagger. Nick Stahl, Selma Blair, Fran Kranz, FrancesFisher and Geri Jewell are all appealing in supporting roles.
A soundtrack of Texas rockbands like Spoon, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Dicksand Young Heart Attack can only boost the film's appeal to the US collegecrowd.