29 May 2016 | caprivi-34408
Lack of pretense, quiet intimacy, and excellence of presentation.
A simple story of man named Charlie Winship experiencing a change of life on a Maine coastal island. That he's a U.S. Representative who has upset the entire nation by publicly questioning his oath of allegiance on the floor of Congress during an election year adds to the dynamics – but first and foremost this is a sensitively written, directed and edited film with beautifully acted scenes set on a wildly picturesque Maine coastal island. There is a flavor of Flaherty's Men of Aran about this island that allows Joe Arcidiacano's expressive cinematography to frame the story as a true to life documentary. Production values are solid for an independent, the ambiance of a small island village well captured and interesting characters abound, some played by island natives. The professional actors fit like a glove, nuanced and accent perfect, they move with the same stolid self-awareness of island people – who may be cut off from the rest of America but are definitely united with something older and deeper that comes from the sea. Ryan Merriman is a quiet riot, Elizabeth Marvel is dead center in her characterization of an intelligent island woman approaching lusty spinsterhood, Chris Conroy covers the difficult distance between a young lobsterman and aspiring artist with great sensitivity, Marshall Bell is a crusted village patriarch with too many problems to solve and Kim Blacklock is everything a boat captain should be, and more. In her film debut Miriam Hyman sparkles as Charlie's congressional aide, while Josh Mostel is exactly the kind of political functionary you don't want to find hiding in your bushes at night. The filmmakers made a wise decision to keep George Hamilton bottled up on the mainland or he would have hijacked the entire film. Treat Williams deserves a deep bow for his performance as Charlie Winship. In a long career as a leading man he's clearly guilty of having saved the best for last. Still vital and expressive, Williams' world-weary humor and unerring character touches irresistibly score points and enlist sympathy as he presents the full picture of an attractive man in quiet turmoil. In the most bizarre of all political years it may be odd to find a perfect Presidential candidate residing in a movie; but there you have it. I'm writing my vote in for Charlie Winship.
If you want to know why this film rings true look no further than the script by ex-Representative Robert Mrazek that pulls more than little from his experiences as a five term Congressman from Long Island in 1980's and early '90's. Practical as only an ex-politician on a limited budget can be he builds his story from the ground up with an accumulation of telling set pieces – a half deserted lounge of a small airport on the hustings waiting for an overdue plane, a final visit to a dead marriage in a beautifully played scene between Williams and Jayne Atkinson (from House of Cards), a series of hilarious episodes in a mobile congressional office that has seen better days and saner people where Charlie meets constituents flourishing sex toys and exploded mailboxes and a unforgettably plaintive man with an Emmitt Kelly face lamenting his lost son to a useless war. Watching Williams' variations on a thousand mile stare throughout these conversations is a lesson in creative understatement. The fuse that ignites when he steps outside his Toonerville Trolley and gets tricked into demonstrating the Nazi salute to illustrate a point he's making about the pledge of allegiance – starts a smoldering trail through the Island's carpeted forests and tiny fairy houses, lobster thronged seas, mist drenched highlands and the most picturesque candlelit village bristling with diverse personalities until the dawn arrives with a thunderous surprise that forces him to return to the mainland and fight for his legacy with some powerful words from the Mrazek playbook. In the films climactic moment; a town meeting homage to Capra, Charlie gives the best political speech I've heard in this year of skinny sound bites and empty rhetoric. While his constituents digest the moment he quietly packs up his life and walks into the special sunset reserved for a man who has discovered, almost too late in life, what it was he ever really wanted to do... I hugely enjoyed the film for its difference and honesty. Some may call it predictable but I prefer unpretentious - predictable being a word I reserve for Hollywood. I look forward to seeing it again.