The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006


This is one of those films that is tough to review without giving away plot spoilers. You are supposed to be confused at first as the movie slowly introduces you to various characters and then lets you discover how some stories intertwine with others. It’s also a little strange that it takes place in two different time lines, one about two years ahead of the other, but they interplay scenes from each time and you have to remember by the characters and action which year you are watching (although they do put in audio cues with campaign radio spots for the 2000 presidential election helping to keep you grounded where appropriate). Be assured that everything does come together neatly (perhaps a little too neatly).

The basic storyline is based on actual events, but it has a melodramatic feel that makes it seem contrived. Since we only ever deal with people central to the story, you start to feel like everyone on Earth is involved in some sort of giant conspiracy. It’s a little like “Crash” in that respect… We feel like we are picking up random storylines and then feel manipulated when the characters start interacting and it seems like too many coincidences.

The movie is a relationship drama, as characters try to find connections and meaning in their relationships with family, friends, and significant others (I’m being deliberately vague to leave the important elements a surprise). Dialog is refreshingly real… The characters sound like actual people talking, not snippets of script. There are only a couple of times when it slips into heavy-handed spelling out of the turtle allusion in the title (which could also be seen as having to do with the phrase “being at loggerheads” to mean stubborn fighting over a principle where neither side will back down).

There is way too much reliance on closeups. It feels like the film was deliberately shot to play well on TV screens. The director uses one-shots instead of two-shots in most conversations, which means you spend time flipping back and forth between each person instead of seeing them talking as an outsider. This is supposed to draw you in instead of making you feel like an outside observer, but it got annoying after a while.

There are several “name” actresses in the cast and they turn in strong performances. Tess Harper, Bonnie Hunt, and Michael Learned are matched by lesser known males in the key roles. I liked Kip Pardue and Michael Kelly as the featured actors.

The action takes place in several North Carolina locations, from the beach on the East to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west. But while they pay a lot of attention to the locales, it’s not important to the story. Just a happy coincidence for this relatively new NC resident.

I enjoyed the slow development of character personalities and gradually learning their back stories. It kept the movie interesting as you peel away layers to see more about the people who at first are just dumped in your lap. There are themes of prejudice and acceptance, family bonds, and damaged self-perception that are only occasionally made too preachy. For the most part, it is a very touching story, helped by its origins in real life. You may have a tear in your eye at the end, but I won’t say whether of sadness, happiness, or possibly both.

Parents don’t have too much to worry about. There are a few light swear words and adult themes including references to homosexual relationships. No nudity or violence. But young children won’t be interested. I give this one a recommendation for a night when you aren’t looking for light escapist fare.


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