29 November 2007 | adamdonaghey
An important film about one man's struggle to survive in an environment of deceit and manipulation
Given there's already quite a number of reviews of The Good Life--it did play at Sundance, after all, I'm not going to discuss the plot of the film, except to briefly say that it's a film about the suffering and isolation of one man, Jason, in a town he's trapped in for all the wrong reasons. He is surrounded by deceitful and manipulative individuals who do nothing but bring him down and pull him further and further into desolation. That is, except for his one true friend, Gus, an old man who owns a neighborhood theater. The film deals with themes and perspectives and actions viewers don't typically find appealing on screen--and it is largely depressing. Reviews are mixed for this film, as to be expected. Some find the film hopeful or inspiring at the end--I just see it as survival.
The well-fleshed out characters in this gloomy tale are all impressively played. Mark Webber's performance as Jason is incredibly riveting and believable. As for Chris Klein, I agree with some critics who believe this might be his best role yet. Zooey Deschanel manipulates me into loving her once again. Bill Paxton's character is quirky and odd and gay, and Bill pulls it off perfectly. Gus, however, is probably my favorite character. I kept looking over at Harry Dean Stanton, who gives a heartfelt performance as a dying man, wondering, as the film progressed, how he felt watching himself play this character--at his age--and how it effects him. Of course, he's far more active than Gus...
(on my blog there was a picture of Harry Dean waving his hands in the theater at the audience, announcing "I am not a crook.")
Professional skateboarder Stephen Berra has written and directed a truly important film, built on decent story and cemented together with remarkable performances from the actors. Berra's portrait of small town America manufactures a painful environment which grabs the viewer by the throat. The film doesn't necessarily say anything new or even profound for that matter, but it's certainly an emotional experience I won't soon forget.