26 December 2006 | cosmic_quest
Enjoyable enough independent film
For a low-budget independent film, 'Paradise, Texas' is quite an enjoyable little film. The premise of the film sees has-been actor Mack Cameron striving to reclaim the fame he enjoyed in his younger years while juggling his failing career, that sees him travelling all over the country, with the needs of his wife Liz and two young sons and the pressures his acting agent mother places on him to let her manage his life. When he's offered a role in an independent project filming in his childhood town, he accepts the part in the hopes it will allow him much needed time with his family. Elsewhere, twelve-year-old CJ is a talented young dancer and performer who isn't quite the sports-mad son his man's man father had hoped for. But his luck seems to be changing when he is cast in the same film as Mack, who he comes to look up to. But Mack can't keep his disenchantment with his career and life under control and his lashing out not only threatens to distance his family from him but risks ruining CJ's budding career.
Timothy Bottoms, in the role of Mack Cameron, gave a good performance as a man who could be rather self-absorbed, floating between jobs without being grounded to his family or taking control of his own life. Meredith Baxter played Liz Cameron and, on the whole, she was able to depict the exasperated wife who is tired of an almost-absent husband although she did have moments where she came across as rather aloof and stilted. Nonetheless, the one who definitely stood out most in this film had to be Ben Estus as CJ. He delivered a very natural performance as a sensitive young lad who was determined to seek his dreams of performing.
In many ways, this film could be divided into two stories, one telling Mack's life and the other focusing on CJ. The latter perspective of the film was reminiscent of an American 'Billy Elliott' where you have a boy engaging in activities that traditionalists see as more feminine and a father isn't some abusive ogre but just a man who loves his son and wants to do best by him. It would have been nice to have seen more interactions between CJ and his family towards the latter half of the film, when the story seemed to shift to focus much more on Mack, since that on-screen family were all very good in their roles.
Mack's side of the film was more predictable so, as a result, less interesting. The idea of a workaholic, neglectful father discovering the true joys of life has been done so many times before and since Mack himself was often depicted to be selfish, immature and work-obsessed, it was hard to find him likable and reason why his family, especially the sons he rarely spent time with, even bothered with him. Also, while the two boys playing the Cameron sons were adorable, Timothy Bottoms and Meredith Baxter look about ten to fifteen years too old to have pre-adolescent children (especially since the youngest looked no more than eight).
That said, this was still a pleasant film despite its low budget. It's worth a look, even just to support the people involved.