Middle of Nowhere [Blu-ray] [Import]
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From the director of Blue Crush comes Middle of Nowhere, a witty, warm-hearted comedy about two precocious teens and their unusual families. A pair of co-workers at a small-town water park --- restless troublemaker Dorian (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) and the tightly wound Grace (Eva Amurri, Californication) -- form an unlikely bond when Dorian cooks up an illicit plan to earn big money. With no assistance from a flaky, free-spending mom (Oscar winner Susan Sarandon) and competition from a sexy younger sister (Willa Holland, Legion), Grace needs all the help she can get if she's going to make it to college.
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Anton Yelchin plays a bright, beyond his years, but troublesome teen who is one step away from the military academy. He has been banished to a water park for the summer where he performs a lackluster job. Eva Amurri also works there and can go to college if she can come up with the trump. Mom (Susan Sarandon) can't help her unless one of her schemes comes to fruition. She's more interested in trying to launch a modeling career for her younger daughter. Yelchin convinces Amurri that helping him sell weed to the locals is a quick way to make the dough necessary for college. She ends up agreeing and that's when things start to happen.
They could not have picked a better actress than Eva Amurri to play Sarandon's daughter. They look so similar it's difficult to believe they're not related in real life. And both do an excellent job here. I suppose I've like Yelchin enough in the few movies I've seen him in but he builds a great character here. I wanted to sit and have a beer with this guy. He is someone I truly wanted to get to know which says as much for the script as it does for his acting.
This is a slice of life type movie where everyone is in a sort of limbo. They are on their way somewhere but can't quite find the key to the door. They also have some serious baggage from their pasts which they need to drop in order to move on. Things DO come to a head and some crap hits the fan but they come to realize them for what they are and resolve themselves to deal with them instead of letting them ruin or scar them.
This movie doesn't take any obvious turns and doesn't feel a need to tie everything up in the end which I liked. I would like to re-visit all them in a few years and see what happens to them. How will their lives turn out?
This is just a plain, good movie. There is one plot point that might be a bit forced but it's a minor argument compared to the greatness in everything else that happens. I don't know if this will change your life but it's much more than a popcorn movie. If you're looking for something with meat on it's bones this is a great choice.
"Middle of Nowhere" tells the story of Grace (Eva Amurri), a bright girl from a troubled family. With big plans to escape from a small town existence, Grace gets little support from her flighty mother (Susan Sarandon). Sarandon focuses all her energy on her younger daughter who she is convinced is "model material." But underlying the difficult family dynamic is the fact that Grace's father committed suicide years ago, and the family has never really dealt with the truths behind the act. New to town is Dorian (Yelchin), an exiled troublemaker spending a back-to-the-basics summer with his uncle. The two form a tentative friendship at the water park where they both work. Grace, desperate for college money, soon gets ensnared in Dorian's extracurricular activities. He is a successful pot dealer, and not without some family demons of his own!
But "Middle of Nowhere" is not just a silly teen caper--it treats its subject matter in a suitably believable way. Quirky and amusing, at first, the film focuses on real life pain and difficult circumstances to fully reveal its three dimensional characters. That's the strength in "Middle of Nowhere"--you'll care about what happens to these kids! Surprisingly free of expected cliche (although Amurri's romance with a privileged boy plays out by the numbers), the relationships established in the film are well conceived. Amurri is steadfast and calm, but it's Yelchin who (once again) steals every scene he's in. A suitably ambiguous ending plays true to his character, and I appreciated the choice that Stockwell made in not wrapping things up with a convenient bow. Warm and sweet, and at times quite funny, "Middle of Nowhere" is a solid sleeper! KGHarris, 1/11.
That's the motivator in this coming of age flick directed by John Stockwell ("Blue Crush," 2002). Grace (Eva Amurri) can't get into college because of the debt her mother accrued by opening credit cards in her daughter's name without paying them off. Dorian (Anton Yelchin), an adopted teen with a streak of mischief a mile wide, finds himself sent off to spend the summer with his disciplinarian uncles. He comes from the rich side of town, Grace arrives with both feet planted in poor town.
Yet this is no John Hughes Cinderella story. Both teens take jobs at a water park, their mission to sweat and be hassled by bratty kids for minimum wage. But then serious Grace and prankster Dorian form a team and devise a way to make money - illegally - to achieve their goals.
We learn a lot about them and their families and - big surprise - we get to like them. We actually care about their problems. No, there aren't any big tragedies or major triumphs. It's just a story about people trying to get by and it's not too bad. Conversation sounds improvised and natural. Susan Sarandon, Amurri's real mother, and Willa Holland co-star.
Blu-ray video looks just fine with a sprinkling of film grain throughout. Set in Louisiana, color is rich, especially during daylight. Audio is serviceable, mostly front centered and dialogue driven. Extras also include a 26-minute making-of offering interviews with cast and crew, much of which is repeated in a set of individual cast and crew interviews. Also find deleted scenes that were best deleted.
Grace Berry (Eva Amurri, in a very natural and focused tough role) explains to a college scholarship counselor (Sharon London) that she needs financial aid to begin her higher education to become a doctor, but though she is a brilliant student, the counselor refuses to award a scholarship because of Grace's exceptionally bad credit rating. Distraught, Grace challenges her mother Rhonda (Susan Sarandon) when she discovers Rhonda has used Grace's name to open credit cards and has spent them to the limit. Grace needs big money to attend college and her summer job at the water park in town is minimum wage only. Also working at the water park is the happy-go-lucky Dorian (Anton Yelchin) who flirts with disaster, having found an 'extra job' selling weed to the rich folks of the city. After a lot of patter Dorian gently coerces Grace into being his driver (Dorian has no car, having been grounded for misbehavior by his grumpy uncle who is serving as relief for Dorian's adoptive parents), and the two begin a quality friendship that fills emotional and financial gaps in each of their lives.
But the truth about Grace and Dorian's parents surfaces: Dorian was given up by his 15-year-old mother for religious reasons and has been placed with quasi-appropriate wealthy parents; Grace lives with the knowledge that her father committed suicide only to come to discover that the suicide was the result of discovering that Rhonda was (and still is) having an affair with his brother Bob (William Haze). Grace's discovery comes through a conversation with her Aunt Polly (Karen Bramen, in an excellent role for this new actress) and Grace's mother-favored younger sister Taylor (Willa Holland), and the revelation sets off a series of events that propels the story to an end. Yes, there are sidebars expected in stories of teenagers: Grace falls in lust with rich kid Ben (Justin Chatwin); Taylor rebels against her mother by cutting her hair thus ending her mother's obsession with Taylor's becoming a model and Taylor seduces Dorian; Dorian confronts his birth mother; there are fights where Dorian is injured and finds himself alone without family support. But without a sugarcoated finale, the film ends quietly, affirming the importance of friends - a kind of love than can replace gaping holes in family relationships.
The movie truly belongs to Eva Amurri who proves she is becoming as fine an actress as her mother, Susan Sarandon. The film also allows Anton Yelchin to demonstrate a much broader range to his acting than he has been given before. The entire cast is excellent. This is a coming of age story - with far more attention being paid to the adult end of the developmental spectrum. Grady Harp, July 10