Review: Winter Passing

Zooey Deschanel is a NY bartender/actress living a life of sex, drugs, and probable self-loathing, until approached by book editor Amy Madigan with a request. She wants Deschanel to hand her a bunch of love letters written by her dead mother and father (the latter played by rather convincingly by Ed Harris), famed authors. This is a sore spot for Deschanel as mom recently killed herself and she’s estranged from Harris, but the money on offer is too good for her to refuse. So she heads home to find her father physically frail and a mentally unstable recluse, and he has acquired two boarders; The first is painfully meek and possibly intellectually-handicapped wannabe musician Will Ferrell, who is fiercely protective of Harris’ home (and who used to be in a Christian rock band, apparently). Secondly there is Amelia Warner, a former student and admirer of Harris’ who has now taken the position of nursemaid. Cynical, embittered Deschanel is initially ambivalent towards the weird but harmless Ferrell, but instantly accusatory towards the pretty, sweet-natured Warner, whom she accuses of sleeping with her father.

If it weren’t for the paint-by-numbers story (troubled daughter visits estranged father- an unstable but brilliant writer living with two eccentrics, old wounds are brought up etc), this 2006 debut cinematic endeavour for playwright Adam Rapp would’ve been a winner. The cast is certainly tops, with Warner and particularly Ferrell (in a serio-comic role) surprisingly affecting, but the story simply isn’t original, and the lead character isn’t all that fun to be around, through no fault of Deschanel. The character is sarcastic, bitter, snorts coke, has reckless and aimless sex, and she occasionally self-mutilates. Sorry, but that just doesn’t interest me for a protagonist, I’m afraid.

Scripted by the director from his own two-act play, I’m sure some people will love it (it could be a cult item), but I’m just not one of them. I’d call it a slight failure, but an interesting one at least. There are some appealing qualities here, but with an unappealing lead character and a pretty clich├ęd story, my engagement here was somewhat limited and intermittent.

Rating: C+


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