Down In The Valley

"Good"

Down In The Valley Review


Harlan Carruthers is a blissful cowboy, all scuffed boots, aw-shucks mannerisms, and a negligent sort of sensuality. He's lightening-quick with his twin single-shot Colts and loves nothing more than riding his horse to the highest hill around and surveying the beauty of the landscape.

He's also a walking anachronism, because Down in the Valley is a modern-day tale, and the title refers to the overbuilt suburbia that is the San Fernando Valley, the land of crowded freeways and chain stores that marks the northern reaches of Los Angeles. But Harlan, played by Edward Norton, swaggers through, contentedly out of place, until he catches sight of Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood), a teenage nymph who pulls into the service station where Harlan works as she is on the way to the beach with her giggling friends. It's unclear why the group dismisses Harlan as out-of-place instead of in fashion, but Tobe is as instantly taken with him as he is with her, and he quits his job to catch his first sight of the ocean with her.

Thus the two begin a dreamy and old-fashioned sort of romance, a 1940s film fantasy unfolding across modern suburbia. It is precisely the sort of relationship that appeals to Tobe, a teenager insistent on how grown-up she is, as a mature idyll, full of staring into one another's eyes and discussions about speaking in your "true voice" and damn-the-world make-out sessions on public transportation. But it is also readily apparent to the audience, and to Tobe's gruff corrections officer father Wade (David Morse), that this is a relationship that will decidedly not end well.

Despite the promise of the start, aided in large part by strong performances from all leads, Valley suffers, mostly from likely unintended consequences of casting and characterization. Norton is visibly, decidedly older than his co-star here, and yet no one comments or questions what this thirtysomething guy is doing with a girl half his age. It seems almost as if Harlan was meant to be played by someone in early twenties. And given that Harlan is shown literally playing pow-pow cowboy games in his apartment in an unnerving hybrid of Lone Ranger fandom and Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, were he younger he could be described as excitable; as it is, I was left to wonder if we were supposed to find Harlan a little... special.

Though the film slows a bit towards the middle, the direction, by David Jacobson (who also wrote the screenplay) displays a certain deftness, an economy of character that makes them somehow understandable and relatable without ever actually explaining them. From the literally the first moments, Lonnie (Rory Culkin), Tobe's little brother, is recognizable as a savagely lonely young man, which slowly develops into his major function as the plot spirals out of control.

Of course, economy has its downfall as well. The fascination, on the part of multiple characters, with all of the readily-available guns could only more obviously be the road to tragedy if each firearm came with a flashing neon arrow exclaiming "Plot Point Here." (And yet, when it comes, the turn to violence is too abrupt and taken to a far more devastating effect than is warranted by the rest of the film.) Furthermore, one ending would have been enough - instead, we are offered a protracted finale that repeats the exact same scenario at least three times, it seems nothing more than an effort to offer the characters a full assortment of locales to play in.

If it didn't fall apart after its strong start, Down in the Valley could have been a breathtaking movie; as it is, it is one just keeping a step above the pitfalls hampering it. Thanks to the uniformly excellent acting, though, it salvages an identity as a moderately worthwhile indie, and one that shows true promise for Jacobson as a writer and director.

I'll head down to that valey.



Down In The Valley

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th December 2005

Box Office USA: $0.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $852.9 thousand

Budget: $8M

Distributed by: ThinkFilm

Production compaines: Class 5 Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 53 Rotten: 49

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Harlan, as Tobe, as Wade, as Lonnie, as Charlie, as Steve, as Sheridan, as Gale, as April, as Kris, Aviva as Sherri, Aaron Fors as Jeremy, Heather Ashleigh as Shell, Jennifer Echols as Rita, Cesar Flores as Hispanic Kid

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.