Thursday, May 1, 2014

Movie with Abe: Whitewash

Directed by Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Released May 2, 2014 on DVD/iTunes/VOD

The weather can have an awfully big impact on the mood of a movie. There have been countless films about storms and natural disasters, and rain often plays a major part as well. But there’s nothing quite as recognizably mood-setting as snow. Movies like “First Snow” and “Frozen River” depend entirely on their covered white surroundings to be effective. “Whitewash” takes it one step further, utilizing the weather as the catalyst for the event that sets the movie in motion, as snowplow operator Bruce (Thomas Haden Church) kills a stranger one snowy night while driving his snowplow drunk.

Church is an actor who, after some solid TV work in the 1990s, burst onto the movie scene in “Sideways” as a man about to get married who meets another woman in a great semi-comedic performance that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He followed that likeable turn up a few years later by portraying villain Sandman in “Spider-Man 3,” which gave him the opportunity to play bad in a blockbuster superhero movie. Since then, he hasn’t done too much of note, and now he’s anchoring this film solo, spending most of the film sitting, walking, or driving all by himself, contemplating the state of his life while trying desperately to get on a better track.

“Whitewash” is an understandably isolating film, one which lacks much action and instead earns the categorization of “thriller” by creating drawn-out suspense and uncertainty in its blanketed Canadian landscape as Bruce moves around, occasionally interacting with others only tangentially connected to society. He spends much of the film in his own head, reading newspapers about the man he hit and worrying whether he has been identified as the prime suspect and the law or something more sinister is on his trail.

That mood, unfortunately, doesn’t amount to much. “Whitewash” is not a terribly accessible film, showcasing a stark event and its consequences but never truly getting to know its protagonist in a compelling way. His story is a lonely one and having him around for all of it isn’t much of a boon since his nature is not inviting or, conversely, intriguing because of his detachment from society. This is the kind of role that Church can play effortlessly, but he is equipped to portray similarly challenging characters in films that are more engaging and worthwhile to watch.


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