Film Reviews

Local Color

Local Color. One of the festival's official closing-night features is this maddeningly uneven coming-of-age story, set in 1974, about an 18-year-old aspiring artist and his stormy relationship with a burned-out, hard-drinking artist who has given up on his work and himself. The whole movie hinges on the young man, who is in virtually every scene. Fortunately, he's played by Trevor Morgan, who turns 20 this month and is already a veteran of lots of TV episodes and such big-screen credits as The Sixth Sense, The Patriot, and Jurassic Park III. The shaggy-haired actor, who's cute without being matinee-idol pretty, has a wide-open face that instantly registers the character's mercurial emotions, and he gets better and better as the picture progresses. Not so fortunately, the older man is portrayed by Armin Mueller-Stahl, a usually fine actor who here succumbs to chewing scenery for much of the movie. And there's plenty of scenery to chew — after the opening, set in Port Chester, New York, the story shifts to the artist's summer home in rural Pennsylvania, which abounds with the impossibly beautiful landscapes to which both painters are partial. It's a given that these two will overcome their differences, with the older man eventually becoming the mentor the younger one so desperately wants and needs. Yes, it's predictable, but Morgan makes most of it work, with an occasional assist from Mueller-Stahl in his more restrained moments. And the irresistible Samantha Mathis gives the picture a welcome infusion of warmth as a melancholy neighbor who shows up bearing apple pie and wallpaper samples. Refreshingly, she turns out not to be the older artist's love interest, and despite some heavy flirtation with the younger guy, she doesn't relieve him of his virginity. The cast also includes Ray Liotta as the kid's hard-ass dad, and Diana Scarwid so completely disappears into her role as the mother that she's almost unrecognizable. Charles Durning has a couple of scenes as a local framer and art expert, and Ron Perlman is bewilderingly campy as a supposedly straight art-world maven. George Gallo, best-known for his scripts for Wise Guys and Midnight Run, wrote and directed, loosely based on his own experiences. (Sunday, November 12, 5 p.m., Parker Playhouse; 99 minutes.)
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Michael Mills