Old Jack can be a bit slow sometimes.
I popped this on the box expecting a story of family fun, Frank Langella as comedy grandpa, Christina Applegate as gorgeous, crazy-funny daughter and Billy Crudup as someone else in the film. Instead, it’s a film about anger, led by angry Frank as Raymond Engersoll (he’s terminal), pissed off Christina as daughter Kate (in a battle of wills with her whole family, but mostly Nicola Peltz as teen flasher Annie), and wildly inconvenienced and overly-jawed Crudup as Brian Gleason. Add in a slowly disintegrating through anger-avoidance drugs and booze Mary Kay Place as Estelle Engersoll and you have two hours of rage and some beautiful countryside.
Not fun. Well, okay, bits are fun. The acting is all-round stellar. The cinematography is beautiful without taking over. The plot…well…as I said, old Jack can be a bit slow.
Euthanasia or Youth in Oregon. You choose. A-hahahahaha. Sigh.
Everyone is cramped into the one house – the oldsters barely tolerated by the youngsters (thank you very much for making you, y’weasily little bastards). Much domestic chaos is avoided as Raymond heads for the doctor to be told he has six months to live. This scarcely improves his perma-sour mood, but lets him fuck up his 80-somethingth birthday party by announcing he wants to go to Oregon where euthanasia laws are relatively decent. This triggered a bit of sympathy on my part, what with spending some nights here listening to people cough up tumours, burst hearts or fall terribly, terribly, not-quite-dead. Raymond is making a rational decision and forces a road trip.
Crudup does the driving, enduring his father-in-law’s random acts of rage. There’s a ghastly row about fading erections that had me fingering the just-in-case Viagra bottle in my dressing-gown pocket. There’s old man falling down while pissing and staying angry as his trousers are now drenched, staying angry as he changes, and so on. There’s the old man’s wife, blocking out Langella’s rage and keeping Crudup alert through none too subtle use of drugs. And…this moment was always coming…a fumbled meet-up with an estranged son who likes sons. It almost looks as though the old man isn’t going to be presented as a bigot until a you-didn’t-produce-children moment.
Are families really this angry? Is it always the dying-old-fart’s fault? I was getting angry at the anger when the film flipped back to the domestic chaos, where Christina Applegate is losing it with her daughter for sending boob photos to her boyfriend only for…yeah, yeah…the pictures to be sent around the school by someone who nicked the boyfriend’s phone which triggers an unexpected meeting with the head of year and more anger.
Old Jack wanted to love this film. Langella does glary comedy like few others; Applegate is monumentally sympathetic; the subject needs the exposure and the whole thing is very pretty. But the anger saps the spirit, it really does. The ending, with sobbing over bottles of palatable poison, slappings and more rage, even leads one of this sorry crowd to plead for help to quell the family’s anger. I liked the whole cast, but wanted them to do subtle drama with subtext and mixed feelings. Youth in Oregon delivers a straight-line road movie, taking no side roads, and does the same with its emotions.