14 March 2005 | kfitzfake
Completely Original & Mesmerizing
This movie just blew my mind!! Let me start by quoting some of the review in LA Weekly:
From beginning to end, the movie achieves nearly complete originality of expression that makes it as anomalous a figure on today's independent film landscape as the film's characters are on theirs. Sequestered on a ranch deep in the recesses of rural New Mexico, a part-Hopi woman (Joan Allen), her catatonic depressed husband (Sam Elliot) & their precocious 11-year old daughter (Valentina de Angelis) live off the land...
The characters rarely do what we expect of them, while tragedy, absurdity and mordant humor are held in a precarious balance that recalls Sam Shepard at his best...
The ocean meets the sky in a cycloramic mural that, like the movie itself, is a small masterpiece of tone and form. To watch Off the Map is to be pulled into a private universe on the brink of civilization--from which, at the end of two hours, it is impossible to exit unaffected.
This is too true. Half the audience sat through all the credits & then sat for a long few minutes more, just unable to move. For the second time in a week--1st was after Dear Frankie--I was walking the beach for an hour working off feelings stirred up by a film. I don't usually react this way!!
Some more observations from me:
Acting: Joan Allen has GOT to get an Oscar nomination for this! She's excellent throughout, but there's one scene you will never forget: She's hoeing the garden nude with a floppy hat standing like a statue. I won't say more, but what you think is going on isn't. The whole way the scene is filmed is both hilarious & just wow all at once. She was so brave doing that--and no ridiculous implants for her! She's just gorgeous.
Valentina: She shines. It reminded me of the reaction Natalie Portman got in Beautiful Girls. The one where men were saying, "I feel like a pervert, but I can't wait for her to grow up." But this blows Natalie away, in my opinion.
Sam Elliot does an amazing job as the depressed husband. He looks old & grizzled these days but he's got a sexy deep sand papery voice I've always liked. And he's still handsome.
Jim True-Frost plays a visitor who gets drawn into their strange world. He has several excellent scenes where he blurts out all these intense feelings.
Script: The whole story is just so unique. And the dialog is really clever. It will remind you a little of David Mamet.
Directing/camera-work: Campbell Scott created an amazing film and has an eye for beauty and a feel for understated but potent eroticism. But what really got me is the way they framed shots when the characters start doing something really random. The action often starts outside the audience's POV & pans over so you're craning in your seat to see what's going on in anticipation.
I can't recommend this highly enough!