Not to Forget

Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

Not to Forget
dir-scr-prd Valerio Zanoli
with Karen Grassle, Tate Dewey, Kevin Hardesty, Louis Gossett Jr, Taylor Hook, Jared Egusa, Tatum O'Neal, Cloris Leachman, Olympia Dukakis, George Chakiris, Eben French Mastin, Susan Dudley
release US 26.Nov.21
21/US 1h21

gossett oneal leachman

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grassle and dewey
Thick sentimentality engulfs this warm drama, which is appropriately set on a corn plantation. Writer-director Valerio Zanoli fills the script with references to treasure, making the message clear from the start while punching scenes with an emotive score to make sure we don't miss anything. With a central story that's quietly involving, the film has a low-budget charm that just about overcomes the awkward writing, directing and editing.
Cocky small-time con artist Chris (Dewey) is sentenced by a thoughtful judge (Dukakis) to move in with his grandmother Melody (Grassle), who has Alzheimer's and lives in rural Kentucky. Chris is appalled that there's no internet, and that Grandma's helper Joe (Hardesty) expects him to work on the farm. Seeing the land's value, Chris hatches a cockamamy scam with his cohorts Kim and Jerry (Hook and Egusa). But he also enjoys hearing Grandma's stories about his mother, and he gets some good advice from the local pastor (Gossett) about making peace with himself.
Noting that Chris' mother died in a car accident leaving him to be raised in the foster system offers an easy explanation for his heartlessness, as he cruelly plots against everyone around him while dodging persistent calls from his father. His consuming greed is less convincing. That said, his scheming with his pals is enjoyably ramshackle, three young idiots who haven't a clue about much of anything but love a bit of dressing-up. There's never even a hint of suspense about where this is headed, but there are nice textures in the various inter-connections.

The central characters are overplayed by a likeable cast that seems unsure about how they're meant to play each scene. Dewey's best moments are the comical ones with Egusa and Hook. And they find some off-handed chemistry along the way, even if they're never terribly convincing. Meanwhile, Grassle has a lovely luminous quality that brings Melody to life, while ace performers Gossett, O'Neal and Leachman (plus Dukakis and Chakiris in cameos) offer some badly needed subtlety in the story's margins.

The script's moral preachiness becomes increasingly pushy as events unfold, pushing Chris into a corner where he has to confront his past head-on and open his heart to his present. There are enormous emotions in this narrative, and some nice touches in the way the plot plays out, but it's written and directed with such a heavy hand that there's very little left for the audience to discover along the way. And without some badly needed complexity, this begins to feel more like a sermon than a movie.

cert pg some themes 23.Nov.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall