July 6, 2013

Straight A's

James Cox, 2013

Black sheep Scott (Ryan Phillippe) arrives on horseback to his wealthy brother's house to try to make amends after having a vision of his deceased mother telling him to do so. Old tension resurfaces, mainly due to the fact that Scott's brother William (Luke Wilson) is now married to Scott's high school sweetheart Katherine (Anna Paquin).

Like so many of the romantic dramedies that get churned out these days, Straight A's attempts to run on bad writing combined with run-of-the-mill acting. The final product feels unpredictable and uninspired, and director Cox (Wonderland) and writer David Cole are to blame. In the end they make a film that is bearable but unadorned. Ryan Phillippe pulls off a good southern accent, one of the few redeeming qualities of the film. Wilson and Paquin clearly didn't have a lot to work with, and they fall flat here. Anna Paquin's stone-faced performance feels one-dimensional and she's yet to shine outside of the Sookie Stackhouse comfort zone. There's one point in the film where she blows up, showing that she can cover both sides of the emotional spectrum but nothing in between. The mature son who wears the suit all of the time feels like a direct rip-off of Augusten Burrough's character in Running with Scissors but without any of the charm. Powers Boothe is in what almost feels like a throw-away role, and somehow Cox even made him seem dull. The only really good acting in the film was provided by Gracie (Ursula Parker), who some will recognize from the television series Louie. The dialogue is completely elementary, and the story is even more predictable. The transitions feel forced, and lack any kind of organic feel. The "surprise" twist in the end really feels like they needed to quickly tie up loose ends so they wouldn't be late for lunch that day. In this world of over-used premises and other rom-com low-hanging fruit, this film gets lost in the forgettable crowd.

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