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Winter Passing (2005)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
Drama, Psychological Drama
Adam Rapp Adam Rapp
Zooey Deschanel Zooey Deschanel
Darrell Larson Darrell Larson
John Bedford Lloyd John Bedford Lloyd
Deirdre O'Connell Deirdre O'Connell
Mandy Siegfried Mandy Siegfried

6.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Actress Reese Holden has been offered a small fortune by a book editor if she can secure for publication the love letters that her father, a reclusive novelist, wrote to her mother, who has since passed away. Returning to Michigan, Reese finds that an ex-grad student and a would-be musician have moved in with her father, who cares more about his new friends than he does about his own health and well-being. --IMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: April 05, 2006
There seem to be quite a few quirky independent films released these days that walk the line between comedy and drama. Films like "Imaginary Heroes" and "The Squid and the Whale" are perfect examples of that trend, both of which ended up being two of the best films from last year. This year looks to be no exception, as several indie studios prepare these little darlings for release. One of the first to fall out this year is "Winter Passing", the first time feature from writer and director Adam Rapp. The film is something of a true anomaly - it starts out wanting to be dramatic and then decides it wants to be quirky and then goes into a little sentimentality and then finishes on the dramatic side of things. "Winter Passing", however, knows exactly what it wants to accomplish and it does just that. It reminded me of another great film from a few years back, "One True Thing", which starred the great Meryl Streep. Both films deal with a daughter coming back to the home she left behind, and both deal with the everyone's desire to be needed by others. "Winter Passing" is no better or worse than "One True Thing" - they both feel very equal. What makes "Winter Passing" work is the consistency in the performances and how we end up loving every single character.

The film deals with very needy individuals. Reese Holdin (Zooey Deschanel) lives in New York, working as an actress, bartender, and occasional cocaine abuser. She has sex with men a considerable mount, but doesn't want to get too close to any of them. She also has a problem showing her motions. When she needs to cry, she slams drawers closed on her hands, bringing her temporary relief. Her mother just died. She didn't attend the funeral. One night, however, a publisher by the name of Lori Lankey (Amy Madigan) shows up and offers Reese $100,000 to bring her some letters that were mailed back and forth between her mother and father. You see, Reese is the daughter of two of the most acclaimed novelists of their times, Don Holdin (Ed Harris) and Mary Holdin (Mary Jo Deschanel), who is dead when the film begins. Thus, Reese decides to take the trip back home to see her father. What she finds is a grizzled man, crippled by the loss of his wife, and barely able to write at all anymore. He drinks 100% of the time and lives out in the garage. He has also taken in two borders: Shelley (Amelia Warner), a young British former student of his who is trying to find her way in the world; and Corbit (Will Ferrell), a former Christian rock guitarist who knows karate and serves as the handyman around the house. Together, Don, Corbit, and Shelley have formed an odd little family, each looking out for one another. Each person needs the other two as much as they need them, and it is very sweet and innocent how they look out for one another. The crux of the film deals with Reese back home with these three people, adjusting to their eccentricities and getting back in touch with her father. Turns out, she has a lot of catching up to do.

The plot seems very overused. The whole idea of someone returning home and reconnecting with a loved one has been done to death, but never in this fashion. There is something very low-key and simple about "Winter Passing", from the straight-on camerawork, i.e. "Ordinary People", to the subtle and sweet performances from the cast members. The film works on so many levels. There is the psychology to the character of Reese, who sleeps with men and then asks them to get the hell out of her apartment; she slams drawers shut on her hand and then regrets doing it every time; she claims to have hated her mother, but obviously loves her father. Then there is the psychology involving three grown individuals who need each other so much. Don relies on Corbit and Shelley for everything he needs. In turn, he is someone they both admire and look up to - they would do anything he asked them to do, and would expect nothing in return. My favorite scene in the film comes when all four are gathered around the dinner table. Reese bolts in and demands that her father tell her where her mother committed suicide. The response that Don gives reminded me very much of a response than Owen Wilson's character gives in "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou". This film is very blunt and very honest about what is going on with all three of these people.

As mentioned earlier, one of the primary reasons this film works is because the performances are all so low-key and innocent. Zooey Deschanel gives her best performance to date as Reese, giving her so many emotional complexities and really making her seem worldwise and childish at the same time. She has been living on her own, but is still very much a child. Ed Harris is in top form as Don, a role than a lesser actor could have totally destroyed. He is aloof for most of the film, but then manages to bring it together once the alcohol has been forced out of his system. Watch how Harris chooses to change his degree of performance. Newcomer Amelia Warner provides significant warmth in the role of Shelley; but, it is Will Ferrell who most surprised me in this film. He delivers one of the sweetest and most eccentric performances of the year. Though he is still technically the comic relief in the film, it is not the kind of comedy you would expect. Director Adam Rapp has written material perfect for Ferrell, which has allowed him to bring more depth into the film than another might have provided. One of the best scenes in the film is when Ferrell's character goes to a local Open Mic night, where citizens are allowed to sing and play whatever they want. By this time, Corbit has already informed is that he chokes up when having to play and sing at the same time. The result is a scene that works - it absolutely works, with Ferrell singing karaoke. He could have easily overplayed the scene and turned it into something out of "Anchorman", but he is reserved and quiet and simple. I don't know that Ferrell, like Adam Sandler, is ever going to be able to make it as a dramatic actor, and I don't think he wants to, but "Winter Passing" works very well for him.

On the whole, "Winter Passing" really connected with me in a big way. I responded to the characters and their situation, how they relied on each other for so much, but really don't know one another as well as they might want to - but, does it really matter who did what beforehand? I loved the simplicity in the cinematography and the matter-of-fact approach to several of the scenes. I love how this film really doesn't fit into a genre, and could be classified as comedy, drama, or both. "Winter Passing" gives me great hope for writer and director Adam Rapp, especially if he keeps up this kind of writing style. I would not compare him to someone like Noah Baumbach, but her certainly has a dramatic style all to himself. I would recommend "Winter Passing" to those of you who feel like a totally unique cinematic experience. I recommend the film to anyone who is sick to death of the Queen Latifah comedies and the video game horror films. Will Ferrell fans, however, should beware before they purchase their tickets - this is not the typical Will Ferrell film. You're not getting the same humor you did in "Zoolander" or "Kicking and Screaming". You will get the same feeling you did when you first saw Adam Sandler in "Punch-Drunk Love". I absolutely love it when actors I have little faith in turn around and show me what they really can do with the right material.

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Lucid Dreams #1: Lucid Dreams - added 06/15/2010, 01:57 PM
I haven't seen this in awhile, but from what I remember I really enjoyed this film and Zooey is just beautiful.
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