The quirkiness of the characters, all played wonderfully, is what gives the movie its charm. You like these people and realize they're trying, to the best of their ability. That they regularly fail, or make terrible decisions, actually makes you like them more, as after each failure they do seem to learn a little bit, and screw up less the next time. They're the best people they know how to be. Ellis tries to do right as much as possible, and though he keeps getting beat down, he keeps trying. That's charming too.
However, there isn't much actual conflict in this movie. I did have a feeling of "congrats, your family is weird, get over it," which grated on me slightly. It does feel like after a while all he wants is a hug, which gets tiresome. I could definately see if someone didn't get into the vibe of the film, they'd get bored quickly.
That said, there were a number of things that worked well. One thing I really liked, and I presume this is because the movie is based on a novel, is how well crafted each character is. Not only their actions, but how their actions affect other characters lives and actions, past, present, and future. You can see how that all plays out, and that's better done than it is in a lot of movies.
One of the most interesting aspects of the way the movie plays out is how mildly surreal it is early on, with goats in cars, bizarre lifestyles and so on, reflecting the naïveté of the main character. Then, abruptly, that tone changes with one event, and the rest of the movie plays much closer to reality. It's subtly brilliant, actually.
The movie is beautifully shot, featuring scenic landscapes of the southwest. This isn't one of those "the land is a character too!" type movies, more that the peculiarities of the Arizona desert act as a sort of fitting backdrop for the odd family. It contrasts well with the regimented, cold look of the East Coast prep school Ellis attends out of desperation to get out of his childhood world.
The soundtrack, by Woody Jackson and Jason Schwartzman, is largely guitar-based and really fits with the mood.
All the pieces blend together well, from the production to the writing to the story and the performances. I can't say I loved it, but it was an enjoyable way to spend 92 minutes.
|Summary||A rather adorable tale of a family trying the best they can but still screwing up pretty regularly.|