| Hal Holbrook (“Into the Wild” and “All the President’s Men”) makes a lasting impression with an unforgettable performance in this Southern-flavored drama calibrated to be a crowd pleaser.
Holbrook, who celebrates his 85th birthday on Feb. 17, plays Abner Meecham, a stubborn and cantankerous old geezer. He packs a briefcase and flees his room at a retirement home, ending up at his farmstead in rural Tennessee where he finds a teenage girl (Australian Mia Wasikowska from “Defiance” and soon to be seen in the lead role of the upcoming “Alice in Wonderland”) sunbathing on his front lawn.
Abner’s son Paul (Walton Goggins from “The Shield”) has leased the property to former drunk Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon, who played Coach Burt Cotton in “The Blind Side”) for 90 days with an option to buy.
Abner takes up residence in the adjoining rustic sharecropper’s cabin surrounded by boxes of memorabilia from a lifetime together with his now deceased wife Ellen (Dixie Carter in a non-speaking role appearing in flashbacks).
A battle of wills takes place between Abner and Lonzo in a fight to reclaim the land in this leisurely paced film smartly written and directed by Georgia native Scott Teems based on a short story by William Gay.
There are long stretches without dialogue that allow you to enjoy the ambience and the natural surroundings. The sunrises and sunsets are beautifully captured by the first-class cinematography. Holbrook embodies a Southern version of the character Clint Eastwood played in “Gran Torino.”
Abner gives a perfect description of himself and the simple premise of the movie: “I’m an 80-year-old man with a bum hip and a weak heart. I can say whatever I want to. The only thing left that matters to me is my farm.”
The music by Michael Penn includes an old Jimmie Rodgers song about mortality that includes the lyrics “I hate to see that evening sun go down. It makes me feel I’m on my last go round.”
The movie takes place over the course of one week. It was filmed outside of Knoxville, Tenn., on the grounds of an old farm complete with a slave tenant’s cabin.
Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure” and “One Tree Hill”) gives a strong supporting turn as Abner’s down home, good ole boy neighbor Thurl Chessor. He sells Abner his station wagon and gives him a barking dog to annoy Lonzo.
The movie’s main weakness is the dream sequence flashbacks, which are unnecessary and detract from the present-day narrative.
The movie sustains your interest through its nearly two-hour running time. It has won awards for best narrative feature at the South by Southwest, Newport, Memphis, Atlanta, Sarasota and Nashville film festivals. Greater Kansas City audiences are fortunate to finally have the chance to see a fine example of how good an independent film can be. It is opening exclusively for a limited engagement at the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"