Friday, June 03, 2011

Accidents Happen: Grade C


Accidents Happen (2009)

Geena Davis, Harrison Gilbertson, Harry Cook. Director Andrew Lancaster.

This is supposed to be a comic tale about a suburban family in the 1950’s who suffers from exceptionally bad luck. A tragicomedy then. The film opens with an elderly neighbor man accidentally setting himself on fire at his barbeque and lunging into the family’s lawn sprinkler in desperation, but no good, he burns up. The voice-over narrator makes ironic remarks. This prolog tells us everything we need to know about the movie: it is neither comic nor tragic, has nothing to do with being unlucky, only tangentially involves the main characters of the family, and is badly written (voice-over is used when a screenwriter is unable to tell the story properly).

Next there is a horrible car crash (well-filmed) in which the family loses the father and a daughter and one of the sons goes into an irrecoverable coma, leaving only the mother (Davis) and her two teenage sons. The mother becomes depressed, bitter and foul-mouthed, and Davis’s electrifying performance of that character is the only reason to watch this movie. Her lines are mostly vulgar and insulting, not that funny, but she delivers them with such deadpan aplomb and perfect timing, you can’t help laughing. She is a great actor, and although no longer the stunning beauty she once was, she has aged well. Every scene she is in is a treat.

Alas, the rest of the film is painfully lifeless. The two teenage sons become distant and irresponsible, one a druggie and alcoholic, the other a chronic prankster with a neighbor kid. Their antics give Davis something to curse about, but other than that, are meaningless. There is no story and no ending. Sets are interesting, but weird. It looks like 1950’s suburbia, but not convincingly. So the movie is overall a failure, or would be, except for Davis’s performance, which is so strong, it is reason enough to watch.

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