27 November 2010 | ferguson-6
Not Dead Yet
Greetings again from the darkness. Reading the synopsis on this one could lead you to believe you've seen the same thing 40 other times - an indie flick where a nice guy rescues the teenage runaway who has fallen into a life of stripping/prostitution. This assumption would be incorrect. What sets this one apart is the script from writer Ken Hixon and the acting trio of James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo.
Two of those names may surprise you. Gandolfini is of course best known from his run on The Sopranos. What many don't realize is that he was a fine character actor prior to that iconic role. And many more know Kristen Stewart only as Bella from the Twilight franchise. In fact, she was a scene stealer prior to that in Panic Room and again in Into the Wild. Melissa Leo has experienced a career boon since her Oscar nomination for Frozen River. This year, she can also be seen in Conviction and The Fighter.
Hixon's script is unusual because it has the feel of how these people would actually interact. Gandolfini owns a plumbing supply business and leading, as they say, a life of quiet desperation. His wife (Leo) has been a virtual recluse since their teenage daughter died. Their marriage basically died that night as well, though they keep going through the motions that 30 years together brings. While attending a convention in New Orleans, Gandolfini stumbles into a strip joint and falls right into the life of Stewart.
The obvious thought is that he sees this as his opportunity to rescue her from this awful life and be the father he never got to be his own daughter. But there is more. He really comes across as a guy just searching for meaning in life ... his own life. He doesn't pretend to have the answers, but is not content to sit around and wait to die. His bizarre actions motivate his wife to actually leave the house and join him in New Orleans. Her reaction to what she finds is, once again, very real and un-Hollywood.
No need for me to give away any details or plot points. Watching these three together is refreshing for this avid movie goer. The stereotypes are minimal. The dialogue is sparse, but authentic ... just like the setting. Searching for meaning can be a painful process and it's not always obvious when one has succeeded. The director of the film is avid music video director Jake Scott, who also happens to be the son of Ridley and nephew of Tony. Jake shows none of the over the top tendencies of his more famous relatives. In fact, the level of understatedness is a joy to behold.