Thursday, April 19, 2018

Movie with Abe: Little Pink House

Little Pink House
Directed by Courtney Balaker
Released April 20, 2018

Everyone deserves to be able to live in their home, and no one should be forcefully removed. There are circumstances which dictate that land should be reappropriated for a public good, and usually efforts are made to ensure that those who are told to relocate are offered fair compensation in exchange for the loss of the place they call home. When a private corporation is the one making the request, however, those impacted may not be willing to go quietly, as was the case with the residents of New London, Connecticut who, nearly twenty years ago, protested being forced to move to make way for a new Pfizer plant.

Catherine Keener stars in the film

Susette Kelo (Catherine Keener) is a paramedic nurse in New London who owns a little pink house with a gorgeous view. When she is approached by representatives of the New London Development Corporation with a generous offer to buy the house that she has renovated from a small cottage into a warm setting for her life, she rejects it outright. When they repeatedly return and ultimately decide to use eminent domain to evict holdouts, Susette reluctantly becomes the face of the movement against the intrusion of a private company pretending to be a public interest into her personal life, taking the battle all the way to the Supreme Court as the NLDC’s chosen spokesperson, Dr. Charlotte Wells (Jeanne Tripplehorn), works to spin the story in favor of bettering the town and boosting the economy.

Producer Ted Balaker, subject Susette Kelo, and director Courtney Balaker

In this case, revealing the end of the movie is necessary since it speaks to the main reason that it came to be made. When the Supreme Court decision came out against the tenants and on the side of the city of New London, producer Ted Balaker cites it as one of the few moments in his life that he can remember where he was, shocked to learn that the court ruled against them. When the film and television rights for the book of the same name by Jack Benedict became available, Ted and his wife, Courtney, the film’s director, who wasn’t familiar with the case, realized that writing the screenplay felt like the next step. The real Susette Kelo claims that, over a few beers, she knew that “they were going to do the right thing, not just make a movie but make a point and try to continue to correct what happened so that it doesn’t happen to other people.” Ted describes the desire to “use the film to shine a light on other abuses since there’s a little pink house in every town.” The film’s website and Facebook page highlight eminent domain cases going on today targeting poor, elderly, minority communities, and Ted recommends the Institute of Justice, the organization that took Kelo’s case on, as another resource for those spurred to involvement.

Catherine Keener stars in the film

Discussing the ambitious nature of Courtney’s feature directorial debut, Ted jokes that it should have been a drama with two people rather than a “sprawling, decade-long ordeal with seventy-plus actors, a demolition scene, and the Supreme Court.” The married duo commends Kelo on being an empowering subject, and note her presence at past film festival screenings as a factor in the overwhelmingly positive response to the film, adding that at least one person has gone up to hug Kelo and thank her for what she did every time she was present. Kelo responds simply that “there’s not too many people that are against having their home taken away from them.”

Jeanne Tripplehorn stars in the film

This film strikes a particular chord because, over ten years after the ruling came down from the Supreme Court, nothing has been built on the land. Acting as a springboard for important conversations and hoping to inspire political action from affected viewers, this film also serves as an affirming drama with an authentic performance from Keener and a crucially funny turn from Tripplehorn, who Courtney attributes as charming and playful, not just a black-and-white villain. More than anything, however, this film is about “harnessing the excitement from viewers about learning more and suggesting five things that people can do if they want to do more,” according to Ted. As a call to action, this deeply sentimental film should do very well.


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