Solid Substance

Note: the test screening I saw this movie at was way back in January, and it's only getting limited release here in October. I can't say whether they've been playing with the film - maybe since I liked it, they felt they had to change something - or maybe it's just hard to find the right place on a busy calendar to open it. This just isn't the sort of film to have a huge opening naturally, so doing what they can to ensure a profit is not surprising, but why such a loooong wait? I can't say. Now back to our original review...

Two married couples from Arkansas drive to Reno for vacation, befitting their shared small town southern white sensibilities. From there, these four characters are about as different as you can get. Lonnie Earl is a rough-edged selfish bastard car salesman. Darlene is his scared-to-live-her-own-life wife. Candy, on the other hand, goes after what she wants and lives as free as a bird. Her husband, Roy, works for her father and has let himself be a prisoner of everyone's perception of a lack of intelligence on his part.

This is a comedy, but it could have been played the opposite way as a straight drama. I think the right decision was made here, as the audience would probably find ways to laugh at these characters anyway (you think that's a coincidence?). And the laughs come easy in the script, pushing things along while still remaining true to character. The one major error is that script flinches at the end, breaking the cardinal rule of "show don't tell" and holding back what would have been a revealing scene.

The acting is great, with the wonderful timing necessary for this sort of thing. Billy Bob Thornton was born for his part, and Charlize Theron and Natasha Richardson, while a couple times looking alike enough to confuse me, were excellent as well. I was surprised by Patrick Swayze's strong performance, not having seen him bring this much depth to a role like this before.

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