Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kids Don't Grow on Trees

When I was a teensy li'l critic earning my bachelor's degree, I encountered Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Buried Child.  At 19, it both scared and confused me.  I mean, didn't the family know their own?  And how can you keep such a horrible secret?  These seemed like simple questions, but again, I was very young.

So what if Buried Child was a fairy tale instead of the darkest of dramas?  What if the thing that was buried was a heartbroken couple's wishes for their dream child?  What if moving on meant facing getting what you wanted, instead of confronting what you did?  Then you might wind up with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a delightful, though weepy, movie about wishes confronting reality and reality confronting wishes.

The story is by Ahmet Zappa (yep, one of Frank Zappa's kids) and the screenplay and direction are by Peter Hedges, who did the screenplay all those years back for the magnificent What's Eating Gilbert Grape.  The film is best approached as a live-action fairy tale - I've read some critics who don't get that and seem offended that the film is so sentimental, so let me address that.  Sentiment is not a bad thing.  I think we often get so wound up in posing as cool that we run the very real risk of losing the ability to be genuinely touched by emotion.  Timothy Green deals with a childless couple who desperately want a child and a bit of unexpected magic that grants them their wish.  But wishes, like anything else in life worth having, come with consequences.  Timothy is everything his parents wanted - and they were very specific about what they wanted - but everything has a season and some are shorter than others.

Timothy Green is an unashamedly feel-good movie. It takes place in a small town where there is one rather outdated industry and the most colorful autumn ever.  The casting is spot-on with newcomer CJ Adams playing Timothy with a total lack of guile. (Adams worked with Hedges in Dan in Real Life a few years back, but this is his first starring role and I seriously doubt it's his last.) Be on the lookout for Joni (played by Odeya Rush) who, like Timothy, is more than what she seems.  I could go on and on about the cast - David Morse!  Dianne Wiest!  M. Emmet Walsh! - but I'll just say that Timothy Green is a rare flower of a film. It's a fairy tale, so come prepared to accept a few things.  And it centers around love, so come with a hankie. Because we all know that love is the best thing ever, but it'll also make you cry.  And sometimes, tears cleanse the dust from our souls.

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