19 April 2015 | invadersam-255-740767
Good performances make up for a bland story
I recently got a chance to see a screening of "Cotton" at the Milledgeville Film Festival. I went in with literally no expectations other than that Gary Cole, an actor I'm a fan of, was in it. Overall, the performances themselves are what make this film. Gary Cole gives what may actually be one of his better performances as the well-meaning father Clay Peaks. It's a different role for him, and one that he plays with subtlety and restraint. I generally think of him as a comic actor, but after having seen this film, I wouldn't mind seeing some more dramatic work from him.
Relative unknown Erik Smith plays the title character of Cotton Welles. Despite the marketing mainly focusing on Cole, this is Smith's movie. Cotton could have been a flat character, but Smith's nuanced performance gives him a certain depth and a great deal of relatability. Lusia Strus also gives a solid performance as the antagonist, Smith's overbearing mother. She chews the scenery much more than the other performers and the end result is actually very powerful and memorable.
The story itself is where it falls flat. Cotton Welles is a genuine faith healer who runs away from his ability only to have his mother track him down and try to force him to use it, growing more and more desperate. The plot beats themselves are very predictable and occasionally fall into clichés, including a completely shoehorned romantic subplot that felt awkward and rushed. The movie is competently directed and has good cinematography, but it just doesn't do anything new in terms of storytelling. Ultimately, I'm glad I got to see this film, but it was more for the performances themselves than for the actual script. If nothing else it's worth seeing Gary Cole tackle a purely dramatic role.