GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
Unrated, 84 minutes
Among The Redwoods
Redwoods (2009) is the second film from writer/director David Lewis (Rock Haven). It attempts to be a gay version of The Bridges of Madison County with mixed results.
|Everett (Brendan Bradley) and Miles (Tad Coughenour) are a young couple who live together in a small town on the outskirts of the giant redwood forest. Their young (presumably adopted) son, Billy, appears to be emotionally challenged and doesn't speak. Miles and Billy take a week long vacation to visit the boy's grandparents and Everett stays behind. Miles rattles off an extensive list of chores for Everett to do around the house ("there's mold in the shower") and leaves without even kissing his partner good-bye. Their relationship has gone stagnant and Everett is probably still with him only out of habit and, mostly, because of their son.|
Later that day, a handsome young man (gay indie favorite Matthew Montgomery) stops to ask directions to the local bed & breakfast. His name is Chase; he is a writer who has come to tour the redwoods and to work on his book in solitude. He is also gay and the attraction between the two men is immediate. Everett once wanted to be a writer himself and so they have a lot in common. Everett asks to read Chase's book, they wind up at his parents' home for dinner, they bond while taking daily hikes together.
|As their friendship and sense of connection deepens, it is only a matter of time before passion gets the best of them. The only surprising part is how long it takes before it finally happens. Everett fears giving up the stability that he has enjoyed for the last seven years and is, especially, bound by the responsibility he feels towards their son. But the flame is gone from his marriage; can he choose between Miles and this man who seems to have stepped out of his deepest dreams?|
|Redwoods is a romantic movie and has all the ingredients that should make this a massive crowd pleaser. Two attractive men (especially Chase), beautiful redwood scenery and a time-proven scenario. The movie gets all the meaningful glances and the subtle smiles between the guys right. But the movie is also curiously flat. Everett and Chase's affair never catches fire the way that it should. These two men should be setting the screen ablaze but the heat never rises above room temperature.|
|Redwoods suffers from the same malady that director Lewis' first film, Rock Haven, did. There is too much shorthand in the story and not enough nuance and character development. More about Everett's relationship with Miles would have been nice. What happened to make their marriage grow so cold? Obviously, the ennui of his situation would draw him to Chase like a magnet but many of the scenes between the two lovers are too choppy and never play out to achieve full resonance. The dialogue lacks a natural flow and, each time a scene seems about to peak, the director often cuts away to lush camera pans across forest scenery instead. An early scene involving a broken sprinkler that blasts both of them with water promises more heat than what is eventually delivered.|
|Quite simply, as hard as the two actors try, the two leads just do not set the screen on fire. Yes, when they finally do it, they tear off each other's clothes and enjoy wild sex but the moment seems to come out of nowhere without the proper buildup. Bradley and Montgomery are sweet together but they are hardly Bogart and Bacall. Maybe this is a good thing. There are no overblown scenes like William Hurt smashing a locked glass door in order to ravish Kathleen Turner in Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat, or Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd breaking everything in sight during the throes of their lovemaking when they finally did it on TV's Moonlighting. Audiences might not be treated to red hot passion, but at least Redwoods is realistic.|
|All flaws aside, this is a relevant story. It explores the eternal conflict in all of us between chasing our dreams and accepting responsibility. The giant redwoods stand as a symbol of permanence and for the stability that is needed in our lives. It would be so easy for Everett to run away with Chase but what damage would this do to his needy and adoring son? When given a chance between a fairy tale and reality, which would any of us choose? And would it be the right decision?|
|There was no satisfying way to end this film but there is a moment near the end that has a similar feel to the discovery of the shirts at the end of Brokeback Mountain. Redwoods is splendidly photographed and the cast does its best with the script's dialogue, which ranges from the sublime to the stilted. Maybe I am being too picky but I wanted to be swept away by Redwoods. The movie is not without its charms. It helps that Matthew Montgomery is one of its stars. I've enjoyed his work in four other queer films and he helps make the time pass in this one.|
Oddly enough, there is an early scene in which Chase gets annoyed when Everett critiques his book. Everett tells him that "When you stick to the simple action and the characters, your story is really gripping. When you make these little asides or play on words, as you like to call them, you tend to get a little sentimental." This could stand as the filmmaker's own approach to writing and he should listen to Chase's rebuttal. There is something to be said for avoiding self indulgence but stripping all embellishments often makes for a dull work of art. This is not a bad movie, it's just that it could have been so much better.
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