7 September 2008 | Delmare
Mature, thoughtful drama
In a backwater town in upstate New York, Georgia Kaminski (Kristin Stewart), a teenage girl with a terminal nervous disorder, finds herself torn between the frivolity of her grandmother (Elizabeth Ashley) and overly protective mother who, in the hopes of bringing awareness and humanity to her daughter's disease, takes controversial photos of Georgia in the nude. Several miles away, aspiring musician Guy Kimbrough (Jayce Bartok) returns to the house of estranged father Easy (Bruce Dern) and younger brother Beagle (Aaron Stanford), trying to hide the secret of his failure to make it big. Easy is the town butcher, recently widowed, with secrets of his own, while Beagle, the kid who never left home, has surrendered his life to the care of his father and late mother, and struggles to find an identity of his own. Kaminskis and Kimbroughs conjoin dramatically when Georgia, hoping to find love in her life, and to find it before it's too late, courts the affection of Beagle, whom she meets at an outdoor flea market. The innocent but contentious relationship causes a series of reckonings, as both families are forced to contend with the heaps of emotional baggage that have piled up in their lives.
Masterson keeps it real with this one. The drama is understated, the tension is subtle, and the characters are both distinct and believable. Hats off to Kristin Stewart, who manages to be a dozen things at once tragic but not pitiful, strong, endearing, funny, unconventionally sexy, and none of the clichés we've grown to associate with any of Hollywood's notorious mental illnesses. Remaining hats to Bruce Dern, a long-time favorite of mine, who keeps a lid on things and never fails to command our respect, even as his character slides deeper into dubious behavior.
In many ways, the film's strengths almost become its undoing. The sustained, understated quality of the storytelling prevents the movie from having any kind of real climax, and the immaculate tension set up in the first hour of the movie never quite pays off in a way I would like. That said, it's still a beautiful film, a capstone of movie-making maturity, and deserves the widest audience possible.