My reaction to the well intentioned film "Highland Park" is somewhat confusing and even contradictory. I genuinely liked the movie and was entertained. It has a tremendously appealing cast of recognizable and talented character actors including Billy Burke, Danny Glover, Parker Posey, Michelle Forbes, Kimberly Elise, John Carroll Lynch, Deborah Ann Woll, Rockmond Dunbar, and Eric Laden. And there's a positive message about civic pride, team work, and loyalty. In significant ways, its many charms are hard to resist as a bit of fluffy wish fulfillment. On the other hand, to be very blunt, it's just so silly! It's been a long time since I've seen a movie so empty headed about politics and the financial crisis. It's a shame, too, because you can see that writer/director Andrew Meieren was attempting to make a substantial film fraught with meaning and importance. Anytime the screenplay attempted social critique, however, it simply didn't work in realistic terms. But in its more light hearted moments, the movie has an appealing underdog quality that is sold by these great actors.
Set in Highland Park (big surprise there), a community in Detroit, the film introduces us to the staff of a dilapidated high school. In dire financial straits, the school is facing enormous cut-backs and massive lay-offs. For an unexplained reason, a diverse group of employees (principal, teachers, handy man, bus driver) get together every week to purchase communal lottery tickets. I tried not to dwell on why this particular enclave of people would have gotten together to do this in the first place, many don't seem to have much in common. So I just went with it. One fateful evening, the winning numbers are announced and life will forever be altered for our assortment of characters. Earnest Danny Glover seems to be the glue holding this group together and, even though he is away on a trip, everyone is confident that he has played the numbers that they have utilized for dozens of years. So without even seeing a winning ticket, they all go nutty. Heck, the story is even carried by the press. Why bother with things like verification? Burke, who is the principal and the moral center of the film, promises much of the money to social reform. He and the local mayor, Parker Posey, are constantly at odds and this secures her commitment to revitalization as opposed to destruction. As you might imagine (it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a script consultant to guess), all may not be what it seems.
Despite the absolute predictability of what happens, I was still invested in the slight drama due to the cast. That's a HUGE accomplishment, though, because they started acting like complete idiots. Still, it's entertaining and amusing enough. Where the film becomes painful, in my opinion, is in the depiction of important political and financial concerns. The simplistic worldview of "Highland Park" is that everything can be laid at the feet of one corrupt mayor. Posey, whom I love, is given the unenviable task of playing one of this year's most ridiculous characters. Chewing the scenery and cackling (if she had a mustache, she's be twirling it maniacally), she stands out like a cartoon character as the movie tries to be serious. I'm not joking, she is borrowing from the Cruella de Ville playbook (luckily, though, she doesn't skin any puppies). While I found her genuinely amusing, it makes the film's conclusions and messages absolutely irrelevant. I was groaning by the end of it all, with the final confrontations getting increasingly silly. Still, if the cast sounds appealing to you, this might be worth a look. Just don't expect a serious contemplation of real world issues and concerns. KGHarris, 8/13.