Old folks. They’re everywhere. Often on the road, apparently. At least, that’s where they keep turning up for us. This time, though, it’s Shirley Knight.
Shirley Knight, you may recall, was (one of) Paul Newman’s dishy co-star in Sweet Bird of Youth. I sure don’t remember that, or any of her roles until she passed comfortably into a middle age (with an awkward “Mrs. Robinson” thing in Endless Love in the ‘80s.)
Honestly, I know her most as Paul Rudd’s mom in Our Idiot Brother, Kevin James’ mom in Paul Blart: Mall Cop and I forget whose mother she was in As Good As It Gets.
Hey, she gets steady work. And she stars in Redwood Highway, as mom to the doughy James Le Gros, who always impresses me with how young he looks, until I remember he’s not Paul Le Mat.
In this little story, we have the miserable Marie (Knight), whose son Michael (Le Gros) has put her in an old age home. Despite this being the nicest old person home in the history of old people, she hates it and wants to go back to Bend, Oregon where she lived alone out in a cabin in the woods, or something.
This is a bone of contention with Michael, though he’s not super-impressed, since she was apparently not a great mom. He’s not carrying a chip, exactly, but he’s not won over by her free-wheeling, independent, if cranky, ways.
Meanwhile, she’s refusing to attend the wedding of her granddaughter Naomi (former child actress Zena Gray) because she thinks it’s a huge mistake for a 22-year-old to get married, particularly to a 30-something musician.
Our story begins when Marie decides she’s going to go to the wedding after all (though she still doesn’t approve) and she’s going to walk there. She has about a week, and it’s about 80 miles. That struck me as a little slow, but my mom (who’s about the same age) said that’s how long it would take her.
My mom also stated that she could cover a lot of ground the first day; it’d be the second that got her. And so it is here. The second through seventh days comprise the bulk of our movie, as Marie discovers that she’s not quite as tough as she thinks she is—but still, she’s pretty damn tough.
This movie also works as a tourism ad for Oregon, since she consistently meets the nicest people at every turn, many of whom would more than willingly drive her where she wanted to go. This, of course, makes her crazy since she wants to do it her own damn self. She accepts help, very reluctantly from a widowed sculptor (Tom Skerritt) and a sassy bartender (the gorgeous Michelle Lombardo).
Ultimately, of course, the journey teaches her a little something about life, and love, and laughter.
But seriously, it does, and like other movies The Boy and I have enjoyed like this, it has several things that really make it: The characters are interesting and largely likable. There are plenty of bad decisions in evidence both current and historical, of course.
There’s a story hinted at early on, Marie’s story, that is revealed step-by-step which sort of helps explain her, at least somewhat, but doesn’t really excuse some of her bad decisions. So that keeps the interest up without making everything neat and tidy and phony.
Director/Writer Gary Lundgren and Producer/Writer James Twyman have put together a nice little movie with solid acting,
Twyman is strongly connected with the “Indigo” phenomenon which posits that there are ubermenschen among us. (It doesn’t call them that for obvious reasons, but I defy you to define the difference.) And I’ve seen some connecting this movie with the Indigo stuff, but I kind of think you have to be looking for it.
Anyway, the Boy and I liked.