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Based on the New York Times' Best Selling novel by Dorothy Allison, Cavedweller tells the story of Delia (Sedgwick), a determined young mother who decides to return to her rural southern hometown after the unexpected death of her second husband (Bacon). There she must face the two daughters and abusive husband (Quinn) she abandoned a decade ago.
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A "feel good" story with lots of forgiveness from a deeply compassionate central character. On her return from years of exile, she nurses formerly deranged, bipolar ex-husband through his final days. never revealing anything to diverse teenage daughters of violent murder threats from their father when she abandoned them as toddlers to "live and fight another day". A good story to share, though language betimes a bit colorful.
The plot revolved around Delia Byrd's (Kyra Sedgwick) return from Los Angeles to a small town in the South where ten years prior she'd left an abusive husband, Clint Windsor (Aidan Quinn), and their two daughters, DeDe (April Mullen) and Amanda (Vanessa Zima) to run off with Randall Pritchard (Kevin Bacon), a rock star. Along with her emotional baggage Delia brings her other daughter from L.A., Cissy Pritchard (Regan Arnold), who spends her adolescent energy brooding about her dead dad and blaming Delia for everything. She has put her father on quite a pedestal--one that he deserves about as much as the blame she has placed on her mother. Regan Arnold played her role very well, and looked like she could very well have been the progeny of Randall and Delia--or Bacon and Sedgwick (since they are married in real life). Regan isn't, apparently--but she has that ring of authenticity. For someone with the names of not one but two actors who went on to be Republican governors of California she was surprisingly sympathetic.
There are lots of flashbacks in "Cavedweller." Returning to the town Delia grew up in, it seems like every place she goes triggers some memory--mostly of abuse by Clint and the reasons she left. The Texaco Station where Randall's tour bus broke down triggers memories of how she met him and their life on the road. Delia became a back up singer with the band. If you like flashbacks, then "Cavedweller" is your movie.
Sherilyn Fenn and Jill Scott are in it, but Fenn is used totally in an expository function, to fill in the story holes by telling instead of showing; and Jill Scott, same thing--but at least she gets to sing a little bit. She plays Rosemary, another back up singer from Randall's band, still friends with Delia, who drops in for a visit. She fills in a few plot holes and she is gone. However, there is one superlative scene with her and DeDe. Taking advantage of her newfound lax curfew DeDe arrives home in the early morning hours having spent the night with some boys in a pick up truck.
"Were those twins?" asks Rosemary in a voice intended to be an accusation but that comes off with just a twinge of envy as if that was one last item left unchecked on her bucket list from her own years of touring with a rock band. April Mullen's DeDe says not a word in response--but the smug smirk on her face? Priceless.
The story and setting--small Southern town plus rock band--seemed ripe with musical possibilities that were barely used. There was a scene where Granddaddy Byrd (Myron Natwick) spun his 45's on the porch for Cissy, and we get to hear "Why, Baby, Why?" by George Jones, but it was all too brief. One flashback showed Randall playing a country tune, demonstrating his familiarity with the genre; and there were other flashbacks where his hits were playing, or else they were sung by Delia, Rosemary, or her daughters. The music was good, but there could have been more of it--especially at the crossroads where country meets rock.
The final riddle is the title: "Cavedweller." I don't think anyone ever said it out loud, and I suppose it was intended to represent Clint, a primitive wife beating cave dweller. The only problem is the whole show down and confrontation with Clint fizzled out, it seemed like a mere afterthought, and a more appropriate title would have included all the myriad other things the movie was "about." What was it all about, Alfie? The fact that they settled on "Cavedweller" only shows that the film makers were as baffled as the audience (or that a lot of material was cut from the book by Dorothy Allison upon which the film was based, but they kept the title).
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