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Branson Family Trip

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Reviewed on 2009-05-09
Received[3]  out of 4 stars
GenreComedy / Drama
A coming-of-age story puts two dysfunctional, upwardly mobile suburban families under the microscope. The title comes from the paranoia over the debilitating effects of a disease transmitted by wood ticks. This marks the sure-handed directorial debut of Derick Martini of an intelligent script written with his brother Steven that is loosely based on their own childhood experiences.

Set in the late 1970s, the dangers of living the American Dream are exposed. The movie is seen through the innocent eyes of 15-year-old Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin from "Mean Creek" and "Signs").

This shy adolescent tries to act cool and is bullied at school. He has a crush on next door neighbor Adrianna Bragg (Emma Roberts, real-life niece of Julia, from "Nancy Drew"), who is one year older. Scott has an older brother Jim (Kieran Culkin from "Igby Goes Down" and "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys"), who is a communications specialist home on leave from the military. His father Mickey (Alec Baldwin from "30 Rock" and "The Cooler") is a real estate developer on the verge of becoming a millionaire. His caring mother Brenda (Jill Hennessy from "Crossing Jordan") from Queens craves attention and has fallen out of love. She has grown tired of the constant bickering and her husband's skirt-chasing proclivities.

Adrianna's dad Charlie (Timothy Hutton from "Ordinary People") has contracted Lyme disease, which explains his erratic behavior. He is a depressed loner who drowns his sorrows by smoking marijuana and drinking. His attractive, social-climbing wife Melissa (Cynthia Nixon from "Sex and the City") is a real estate agent who works for Mickey. An awkward, first attempt at lovemaking is contrasted with an adulterous, mid-life affair. The movie is full of witty lines dripping with sarcasm. The story holds your interest and presents realistic domestic confrontations. The pent-up hostility, frustration and rage are brought out by the strong ensemble acting and the adult-oriented subject matter.

Baldwin and Hutton give the strongest performances. Rory Culkin and Roberts have a believable chemistry in their scenes together.

The cinematography captures the surrounding woods and wildlife. The movie has the period clothing and the music from the era down pat. The steady pacing makes the 95-minute running time go by quickly.

The movie will remind you of "American Beauty" and "The Ice Storm." It won the International Critics' Award at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. It captures the highs and lows of emotionally fragile people and deserves recognition as one of the best independent films released so far in 2009. Now showing exclusively at the Glenwood Arts.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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