Monday, March 1, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Yellow Handkerchief

The Yellow Handkerchief
Directed by Udayan Prasad
Released February 26, 2010

Discussing his 2008 film “The Lucky Ones,” director Neil Burger said that “the danger of a road movie is that it becomes this rambling, meandering thing.” That’s the best way of putting it when describing “The Yellow Handkerchief,” the new film whose lead actors are forty years apart in age and that can’t seem to reconcile that disconnect or wrap itself around whatever concepts and themes it’s trying to convey. People on the road with nothing to gain and nothing to lose can be interesting, but if they’re headed nowhere and taking their time about it, the journey is not worth chronicling.

When people travel together, they have the opportunity to get to know a lot about one another. When the three individuals are complete strangers, the stakes are upped considerably, and the floodgates can be opened for a wealth of surprising information to be revealed. Throw together an ex-convict who just got out of jail after serving six years, a teenage girl with an absentee father and a strong desire to escape the boredom of her life, and a talkative Native American boy with the money and intent to go wherever the road takes him, and it’s possible to have the makings of a great film. That’s not the case here.

The movie is about three characters, but only one actually gets the appropriate back story to really explain his motivations for what he does and to give him any added layers of depth. There are several fleeting moments where a little bit of unhelpful information about the history of Martine and Gordy, the two teenagers, is revealed, but the film focuses far more on the more mysterious member of the trio, newly free man Brett. His history, as seen through flashbacks and eventually narrated to the two curious youngsters, takes predictable twists and turns before arriving at a letdown of a reveal that takes much too long to come undone and is certainly not worth the wait.

The performances by the cast members in “The Yellow Handkerchief” are not exemplary. Oscar winner William Hurt seems like he’s refusing to act, putting on a gruff expression and handlebar mustache and purporting that to be the essence of his character, with no additional personality needed. By contrast, costar Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” infamy doesn’t posses the ability to act, so pairing them up as loners out on the road, one desperate for compassion and the other for solitude, isn’t exactly a bright idea. The only impressive performance in the film comes from British actor Eddie Redmayne, but it doesn’t help that his character is the most ceaselessly obnoxious in the film. Sympathy is only remotely possible with one of the characters, and even then it’s tough because he’s so damn irritating. If a movie about people doesn’t encourage or even allow viewers to identify with any of the characters, then what’s the point?


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