Friday, June 3, 2011

The Locusts (1997)

Overcooked and often campy, this midwestern-set melodrama revolves around a drifter who gets involved with a farmer matriarch and her simpleton son. The film strives to be some sort of bridge between Rebel Without A Cause (the idiot son only makes sense when compared to Sal Mineo's character in that one) and Giant (with its down-n-dirty, rural sexual politics) with Vince Vaughn as the James Dean surrogate. Well, the character of the son is a pathetic, over-the-top caricature by Jeremy Davies, the sexual politics are often more castrated and simplistic than the film's Hays Code-era counterparts, and, as we all know 14 years later, Vince Vaughn ain't no James Dean. The majority of the picture focuses on Vaughn and Davies characters bonding and planning their escape from Davies' "scary" mother, played by Kate Capshaw (for some reason, even though this is not directed or produced by Steven Spielberg); it attests to my otherwise-consistent appreciation for the two actors that I sat through their boring, underlit and underwritten exchanges. Ashley Judd and Paul Rudd, two actors I adore, aimlessly wander through the film without real characters, as Vaughn's lover and friend, respectively. But among all the corny shots of dusk-hewed fields and the hilariously obvious and sappy dialogue, the biggest offence of the film is the top-billed role rendered by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's fatal flaw, Kate Capshaw. To describe her performance as "overacting" would be a complement, for that would imply that there was some actual acting involved with the process; she merely mumbles her lines, stone-faced, while, seemingly, spending all her attention making sure she hits her marks. The way the character is written, with her Mommie Dearest-esque parenting methods (she castrates a horse in front of Davies to, you know, keep him at home) and her psychotic relationship with Vaughn (with whom she alternates flirtation and straight mental torture), would give any actress a hard time to render her realistically, but Capshaw really doesn't seem to be trying, and if she is, she'd probably be best staying at home and taking care of Sir Steven's offspring. Her role, clearly meant to emulate the smoldering roles that Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner could play in their sleep, is such a pathetic misstep that it relegates the whole film from "forgotten disappointment" to "utter travesty." I wondered how a film from my grade school days with such a prolific cast (many of whom I actually respect) could have gone under my radar for so long; it took maybe 10 minutes of the film to realize why.

Skip It, save for Vince Vaughn fans who NEED to see him try and be a soft, cuddly James Dean surrogate or Jeremy Davies fans who haven't had enough of his age-old mental cripple schtick (perfected, of course, in Saving Private Ryan).

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