Apr 13, 2015

Review: Nevada (1997)

There isn't a whole lot to say about this tiny independent film, so I'll just start off with a funny connection that my girlfriend found as we were watching it. She's the kind of person that can recognize an actor and almost instantly make a connection of where she's seen them before. In Casper, Nevada's main actress Amy Brenneman actually played Kat's (Christina Ricci) mother and Garette Ratliff Henson who plays the son of Amy Brenneman in Nevada played Vic, the guy who had a crush on Kat. Talk about a good memory. I can't even remember what I had for lunch.

Anyway, Nevada was Gary Tieche's directorial debut and the only film he's directed in fact. He also wrote it and went on to write the screenplays for several other films as well, most notably The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest. Yeah, not really something I've ever heard of either. Maybe big fans of Rosario Dawson and um, Jake Busey have? Tieche mostly writes for TV now, most recently a Lifetime TV movie called She Made Them Do It.

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At a Glance


Genre: drama
Directed by: Gary Tieche
Produced by: Kathryn Arnold, Carl Colpaert, Kirstie Alley, etc.
Written by: Gary Tieche
Music by: Dead Can Dance, Robert Perry
Running time: 108 minutes
Production company: Cineville, Filmcircle, Secondary Modern Motion Pictures, etc.
Distributed by: Storm Entertainment
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Amy Brenneman, Kirstie Alley, Gabrielle Anwar, Saffron Burrows, Angus Macfadyen, Kathy Najimy, Dee Wallace, James Wilder, Bridgette Wilson, Garette Ratliff Henson, Charlie Crandell

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Synopsis


With no clear reason, Chrysty (Amy Brenneman) runs away from home. She finds herself on a lonely highway in Nevada, literally in the middle of nowhere. She happens upon Silver City, now just Silver since it's quite far from "city size." Even with no intention of staying, Chrysty manages to get pulled into the lives of the local women who for the most part live without their husbands who all work in construction elsewhere. Making friends with most, McGill (Kirstie Alley) is the sole exception.

Review


Gary Tieche wades into some pretty prickly territory with Nevada. Although not explicitly revealed right away, in leaving home Chrysty has abandoned her children. Why? Well it takes most of the running time to find that out, but it can easily be summed up as being tired of her life and wanting to start over. Is it possible to empathize with a character like this? Well, I suppose it really does depend on the person, but I can't imagine there being that much support out there.

I'll admit that I'm not mother and I don't know what it's like to be a mother except in a superficial way. Even so, abandoning one's children isn't all that defend-able. There seem to be hints towards Chrysty being physically abused which would be a good reason to leave, but she denies any such suggestion which just seems weird. Personally there seems to be enough evidence to me that she's been abused, but I suppose that Chrysty wants her leaving to be all her own doing and not her husband West's (Angus Macfadyen).

The way I see it, there really isn't enough in Nevada to ever get you on Chrysty's side. It doesn't matter how many scenes we see of her supposed inner suffering or how much she helps out her new female friends in Silver. It's hard to get the idea of her kids growing up without a mom out of your head and all evidence seems to point to their father being a meathead. I know I wouldn't be too pleased if I were left with that guy.

Besides a less than satisfactory main character, Nevada finds a way to work in quite a few notable female actresses. They're not A-listers, but they're not nobodies either. Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Gabrielle Anwar, Kirstie Alley, Saffron Burrows, Dee Wallace and Kathy Najimy are far from nobodies. It's too bad they don't really find a way to add some punch to Nevada which started to feel as empty as the desert surrounding Silver pretty early on to me.

Kirstie Alley in particular is a nuisance. Her character is meant to be a bit of a roadblock for Chrysty, but in reality she's just an overly preachy, redneck bully and it's hard for me to take a character like that seriously. Besides mostly seeing her on tabloid covers at grocery checkout lines for whatever reason, I don't have that much experience with her as an actress. The character of McGill doesn't really strike me as a good fit for Alley though.

Moments of introspection with Chrysty that are usually accompanied by water (probably in a "cleansing" kind of role) unfortunately strike me as empty. Emotional scenes toe the line of being melodramatic and there are a few moments where the production constraints of Nevada are pretty obvious, mostly in terms of sound effects and even in some of the directing. A fight scene in the last quarter of the film is particularly indicative of that. All in all there's not a whole lot to be impressed with here. The minutes of Nevada just seem to stretch on way too long, particularly near the end which is never a good thing.

To put it bluntly, Nevada is boring. It's just not easy to side with the main character due to her actions, even if she goes through way too many scenes where she's trying to get to grips with what she's done. They're meant to be emotionally powerful, but they fail to be just that. that All these scenes seem to do is make the film seemingly last forever. The supporting characters don't pop out, at least not in a good way and the climactic scenes are disappointingly numb. In terms of forgotten films of the 1990's, there's definitely better out there.

Rating


5/10