Last updated on August 21st, 2018 at 02:24 pm
Rose Leslie is kind of an odd actress. In television shows, she can possess these varied characters you latch onto and who you get pissed, and maybe cry over when they leave. Yet her movie career, thus far, she hasn’t been able to find those type of characters who remind you why you watch production after production, as long as her name is attached. This one is no different.
Cancer (Strictly Talking About It, No Vomiting)
Jack (Ray Liotta) | Athena (Rose Leslie) | Natalia (Gina Rodriguez) | Honey Bunny (Carmen Tonry) | Bryan (Justin Bartha)
Characters & Storyline
Athena is an inspiring dancer who is forced to deal with a father who has an advanced stage of lung cancer. But her father isn’t some jolly 60-year-old man. He is as far from politically correct as possible and to say he is verbally abusive would be an understatement. However, with mom long gone it seems Jack is all Athena has. So, naturally, despite all the opportunities coming up in LA, she is going to travel to Florida to try, key word try, to take care of him.
Things to Note
If you are seeing this film for Gina Rodriguez, please note she is barely in the movie.
Rose Leslie minus Ray Liotta
When the focus is just on Athena, her pursuit of dance, her issues, her dad likely caused, which makes it hard for her to just accept this guy Bryan who wants to be more than a one-night stand, Leslie shines. You see this lovable character, who may have a bit of a chip on her shoulder, but it’s because her father has put her on the defense most of her life, being his version of “Keeping it real” that she doesn’t have the tools to act any other way. Something Leslie exhibits well and even though she and Liotta don’t have the best chemistry, she tries to make it work. However, she is definitely at her best when he isn’t sharing the screen as the erratic Jack.
On The Fence
It Seems Disjointed, Like It Needs To Be Written and Sometimes Like It Needs a Better Cast
I think the first thing that needs to be said is that Ray Liotta as Jack is polarizing in this movie. On one hand, Jack can seem funny, even likable since he is not politically correct. However, after a certain point, it isn’t funny or amusing and neither the writing or Liotta give Jack any sort of depth. He is just a bitter old man stuck in his ways. One who, because the mother of his child killed herself, had to raise her alone and really he isn’t the type of guy built for that. And while that line may give you some sort of sympathy for him, all this anger you see you never are really told where it comes from. We know something happened to him that made him skeptical and malicious at times yet, unless I just wasn’t paying attention, it isn’t like Jack even gives us the opportunity to really understand him. We have to make assumptions, as I did, in order to try to humanize him.
With that said, at times it feels like the movie doesn’t know how to handle Jack’s role. On one hand, it seems like the movie is about Jack and Athena seeing each other for the first time in 3 years and her helping him through having cancer. Yet, there is this completely different life Athena has in LA, then there is her seeing her old friend Natalia while in Florida, and it makes it so you ultimately feel that Jack’s role should have been made smaller in order to allow for real growth and development of Athena’s character.
I wish I could think of a movie which could be an example, but perhaps the best way to put it is that perhaps Jack should have been used in flashbacks. A distraction which keeps Athena from dancing at her best, being able to do more than pursue one night stands but actual relationships, and being able to be happy for others while she is miserable. Yet, in the end, she realizes that her dad taught her many lessons. Perhaps not in the way she wanted or needed, but lessons are hidden deep behind the post-its, his rawness, and even the insults he flung at her.
That is, rather than this bloated part for Liotta which mixes the comic relief with the person who is supposed to bring some emotional weight to the movie.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
Jack’s part in this movie is what brings it down. Between the writing and Liotta, Jack doesn’t seem like a complex person. He is an anti-political correctness sensitive old man whose redeeming quality is his love for his daughter, even if he has a funny way of showing it. And I know, the way I maybe painting Jack may make it seem there is more to him than I’m letting on, but don’t be fooled.
Athena, on the other hand, while the film tries to complicate the story through the use of Honey Bunny, vs. just doing flashbacks, you get something out of her. Heck, as the movie was ending and she was going through a box her dad gave her, I was tearing up. But the amount of nonsense you have to shift to for that one moment is ridiculous. Hence the Mixed (Home Viewing) label.