I suspect that this Billy Bob Thornton movie received little attention and praise because viewers saw it as a diatribe about “country folk” that some might call “hicks.” While it’s true that the film revolves around a backwoods family in Arkansas and has a tendency toward stereotypes of country living, the underlying theme of the movie can be applied all-too easily to any dysfunctional relationship.
Thornton has received little attention for his skill as a screenwriter (with the exception of the highly acclaimed Sling Blade for which he won Best Adapted Screenplay from the Academy of Political Correctness…er, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), yet this film shows an obvious talent for characterization and scene transition. Transitions between dream and reality are seamed together almost flawlessly and always with a purpose toward the action of the movie.
The film takes a good look at the dysfunctional family, gathered together for moral support while an uncle is in jail for attempted murder, and how they respond to each other. What makes this film significant isn’t its obvious wit and humor, but rather its straightforward approach to how our experiences shape our perspective of life and the people around us.
Thornton incorporates everything from gender war (extremism on both sides without domestic violence—an impressive feat in itself) to alcoholism to religious hypocrisy and the failure of the current legal system to adequately represent individuals from lower economic levels. Diving headfirst into the psychology of relationships, an unlikely character points out the deficiencies in the relationships he sees around him.
Although the film is a little slow, it is full of humor and terrific performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern, Kelly Preston, Andy Griffith, and Brenda Blethyn keep it interesting. Also appearing are Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Affleck, Dianne Ladd, and Jim Varney. The exceptional cast and universal undertones of the film make this well worth watching.
Screenplay: 4 Content: 3 Performance: 5 Technical Merit: 3
Significance Factor: 3.5 Inspiration Factor: 3