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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

ARIZONA FLATS -- Movie Review by Porfle

One of those weepy ensemble pieces about a family on the fritz, writer-director Susan K. Brigham's ARIZONA FLATS, aka "Greasewood Flat" (2003), presses all the "feelgood" and "downer" buttons in turn while trying not to be one of the duller knives in the drama drawer.

Currently estranged from the rest of his clan, blues guitarist Johnny (Chip Adams) and his drummer/partner Fred (the ubiquitous Mark Boone Junior, who was "Stinky Man" in SE7EN and the motel clerk in MEMENTO) must retreat to the desert homeplace of Johnny's hard-luck family after failing as nightclub performers. 

Although Johnny's dying mom Janette (Virginia Hawkins) is thrilled to see him, former hostilities between him and headstrong sister Claire (Allison Stander-Marley) are reawakened while Claire's tweener daughter Sarah (Jamie Johnsen-Brigham) doesn't quite know what to think of these two guys.

Claire's about to lose the homeplace due to financial woes, which will include their outdoor restaurant and bar, Greasewood Flat, and their small horse ranch.  Restaurant employees include pretty waitress Abbey (Irene Bedard, the speaking voice of Disney's "Pocahontas"), who lives in an old Airstream trailer on the premises, and Henry the bartender (Kieran Mulroney, George's "double-dip" accuser on "Seinfeld"), who pines for Abbey although she sees him only as a friend.

While poor Janette's impending demise hangs over everyone like the sword of Damoclese, the various characters interact in ways that bring out the sappiness in them all.  Johnny is both rebellious and confused and just doesn't fit in, Claire resents him for running away and leaving her with all the family responsibities, Sarah can't quite find herself, and Abbey's driving poor Henry nuts even as she starts to fall for Johnny. 

All of this is conveyed not through scintillating dialogue (it never quite reaches that level) but by often mawkish exchanges filled with doe-eyed smiles, humid hugs, and voices softly cracking with emotion, periodically giving way to sudden outbreaks of forced, wildly emotional behavior such as Claire venting her spleen at Johnny and making him all hurt and pensive. 

Even more awkward is the scene in which Johnny and Abbey finally get together in her trailer, or try to anyway, during which Abbey freaks out for reasons unknown to Johnny and causes the encounter to turn creepy.  (The fact that Johnny has no natural charm whatsoever doesn't help.)

Claire finally blows up at him real good and he runs off to find himself through a series of aimless montages.  Meanwhile, Fred's animal-like, sweetly-stupid persona ingratiates him with the family and he finds his heart's desire living in their barn and helping with the chores. 

What the leisurely-paced movie takes its time leading up to is the big night in which Greasewood Flat gets a makeover as a fancy dance club with live music--that is, if Johnny can get his act together and play--and a $500 dance contest prize that will hopefully pack 'em in.  By this point, the movie has hit its modest stride and we can finally settle in and watch everything resolve itself, more or less.

(I viewed a barebones screener and thus can't comment on DVD details.)

Will the new, improved Greasewood Flat be a success?  Will Johnny and Fred slay 'em with their music?  Will Janette stay alive long enough to hear them?  Will Henry go postal over Abbey?  Will Claire keep it all together?  Will we care?  As for that last thing, I stuck with ARIZONA FLATS long enough to end up caring (sorta) about what happened to these people by the fadeout, although getting there was a chore even old Fred might find daunting. 

Buy it at
Official site

Tech Specs
Runtime: 88 minutes
Format: 1:85 Flat
Sound: Dolby SR
Country: USA
Language: English



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