A backwoods Alabama boy named Peejoe -short for Peter Joseph- gets a quick education in grown-up matters like freedom in 1965. The catalyst is an unlikely source - his glamorous, eccentric Aunt Lucille, who escapes from her abusive husband and takes off for Hollywood to pursue her dreams of TV stardom. Written by
One doesn't tend to expect much from an actor's directorial debut, especially from a relatively young actor and especially from one who seemed to have risen to fame at least partially by being, um, well, a studmuffin. One also typically expects a movie in which a husband directs his wife in a lead role to be fairly shallow or at least unbalanced. I crossed this movie off my list pretty early, expecting a forgettable Griffith-overload creation and little more.
Wrong! It's well-acted, engrossing, funny, and uplifting without feeling schmaltzy or (despite its farfetched plot) artificial. Every so often you want to rewind a bit, to hear some extra-cute bit of dialog again, or savor an especially well-done shot. (The camera work and sets, both indoor and outdoor, show unusual care, flash, and detail; this didn't dawn on me for most of the first hour but a rewind made it obvious.) Overall, 9 stars out of ten. But:
I wouldn't urge anyone to see this movie for Melanie Griffith. She does a fine job, but she's not what puts it over the top. As with quite a few recent films, I found that the performances of the extremely well-chosen supporting actors were a big part of what held the film together and made it so much more than it might have been. Most notable here is Rod Steiger as the judge, who captivates utterly; John Beasley as Nehemiah -- though his character could have stood a lot more development; and the perpetually underrated Meat Loaf as the slimy sheriff. Performances like Steiger's make you want to ransack the video store to rent all his older films.
Finally, I believe Lucas Black is destined for greatness. I couldn't watch him without remembering River Phoenix as Chris in "Stand By Me."
Why this film doesn't even rate a Maltin summary is beyond me.
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