Friday, May 25, 2012

“Hide Away” – Movie review



This week in the final screening of the Spring Semester for my movie class, we saw the drama “Hide Away”, starring Josh Lucas and James Cromwell.


When a man buys a dilapidated old boat, neighbors become suspicious of his secretive nature – but what will happen if they learn his secret?


In Traverse City, Michigan, a businessman (Lucas) arrives one mid-autumn morning to meet a man at a pier to purchase his rundown, broken sailboat. Paying with a cashier’s check, the man immediately boards the boat to triage the damage to the vessel and prioritize the repair work needed. People in this small community – other boat owners at the dock, residents of the town and area shop owners – try to befriend him as he proceeds to try to restore the boat, but they occasionally find their efforts to engage him to be a bit of a challenge because of his sullen demeanor.

As he fixes the boat both internally and externally, it becomes clear to all that he is assiduously avoiding people, quite possibly because he has something to hide. At one point, he becomes so despondent that he attempts to commit suicide by leaping off his boat into the water, but is saved when one of the elderly residents (Cromwell) hops in a rowboat and pulls him out. Instead of drowning himself, the man then drowns his sorrows by going on a daily drunk. He is so frequently a customer at the neighborhood market which sells wine that the young woman who works the checkout counter becomes curious and follows him back to the boat where he lives during her break one day. She eventually shows up at his boat, seeking succor after a recent beating from her live-in boyfriend.

Gradually, flashbacks reveal the secret the man is hiding as he relives his own personal trauma – he witnessed his wife and children perish in a car accident and feels he is to blame for their death. Eventually, he allows himself to open up a bit and becomes friendly with a divorced man who rents space at the dock. In addition, he gets to know the man who saved him when the older man helps him with mending the boat’s sails. Ultimately, he also develops an intimate relationship with a waitress at the café by the pier. But after many months of working on the boat, what will he do if he ever finishes and will his secret ever be revealed to the others?


If you’re looking for an upbeat, fast-paced movie with an intricate plot that contains plenty of twists, then “Hide Away” is probably not the movie for you. “Hide Away” has a ploddingly deliberate pace that is hurt even more by the fact that there really isn’t much in the way of dramatic momentum that propels the story forward. Further frustrating matters is the fact that the movie is quite dark – meaning its visual presentation (which, of course, matches its theme). Basically, the sailboat in “Hide Away” is representative of the movie itself – they both just sit there and ultimately go nowhere. This film meanders about to the point that it’s almost infuriating.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t include any character names in the story description. There’s a good reason for this – the movie never clearly identifies who any of the characters are. “Hide Away” is an introspective tale that never spells out everything, but neither is it very clear about matters; instead, it makes allusions to things, requiring viewers to draw their own conclusions, but often resulting in raising more questions than it answers for the audience. While we are given to understand that Lucas’ character is a tortured soul, it’s a bit of a reach for the audience to believe that he feels healing and redemption by the conclusion of the film.

Josh Lucas, the film’s star and co-producer, was interviewed by our instructor after the screening. Lucas was clearly very proud of this film, as it has gotten quite a few glowing reviews at the film festivals where it has been shown, including SXSW, where it was particularly well-received. He said that the script was based on the true story of a man who is from Oregon; originally, they wanted to shoot the movie there, but they moved it to Michigan when that state provided them substantial tax credits, which wound up saving them a considerable amount of money on their meager budget. In its original form, the screenplay was only 75 pages long because it didn’t have any dialog; they eventually wound up reworking the script to add dialog and make the movie a bit longer.


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