Sunday, February 11, 2007

 

Sundance 07: Cheering for Steve Berra’s ‘The Good Life’


Advocacy is the noblest role of any film critic and a task most needed at the Sundance Film Festival. For reasons of celebrity, controversy or publicists doing their jobs well, the media spotlight falls on a number of films that don’t deserve the fuss. Deborah Kampmeier’s overboard, Southern gothic “Hounddog” is a good example of an undeserved spotlight film. Along the way, a number of quality festival movies fall by the wayside with its creators left wondering what went wrong. Granted, Sundance’s sheer size makes an impact. Festival attendees eventually leave Park City, Utah without catching every film on their must-see list. Often, dumb luck plays a major role.
Cheering for an overlooked film like writer/director Steve Berra’s coming-of-age melodrama “The Good Life” (pictured above) is one attempt at making the Sundance balance right. Mark Webber is believably down-home as Jason Prayer, a young man in Lincoln, Nebraska, desperate to make a new life for himself but unsure how to do it. His time and energy is spent caring for his widowed mother. Jason’s flaw is his inability to make his own wants and needs a priority. (For more thoughts on ‘The Good Life,” check out my review at www.indiewire.com)
Coming-of-age tales are a tried and true film genre and the idea of a young man aching to leave his grim surroundings is nothing new. Berra, who has spent some time in Lincoln, builds a distinctly beautiful story that weighs heavy on one’s thoughts. I hope to watch it again, this time, with audiences at some commercial art-house theater in Lincoln or any city where young people dream of escaping to better lives.

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