Sunday, April 7, 2013

On VOD: Andrew Meieran's HIGHLAND PARK views that city through a lens of lottery, bankers, politicians and us 99%

Anger fuels the new-to-VOD film HIGHLAND PARK, a collaboration between director Andrew Meieran, co-writers Meieran and Christopher Keyser, and a good ensemble cast. Along with that anger is a healthy understanding that something must be done to salvage the cities and towns of America before everything is in hock to the one per cent. If this means that a small group of citizens must roll up its collective sleeves and rebuild the infrastructure of a town like Highland Park (a suburb of Detroit), so be it.

Unfortunately, Meieran's movie also contains a little too unhealthy a dose of the feel-goods, but in a way that does not become completely apparent until the finale -- when the bad guys and gal (Parker Posey, above, plays the city's nasty, self-serving mayor) are routed all too easily via the the usual routine.

Prior to this, however, and even in the final scene that follows this "routing," Meieran and Keyser at least show us that they're struggling with the world as it exists and trying to find some way out of the mess into which our wealthy, our corporations and our government -- that last thoroughly subservient to the other two -- have cornered us. To do this, the filmmaker returns again to that crazy (and actually pretty vile) thing that fuels so much of the hope and inspiration of the masses: the lottery. Interestingly, what usually happens at the end of a movie dealing with the lottery here happens about a third of the way through when, left to right, above, Rockmond Dunbar, Kimberly Elise and John Carroll Lynch realize that they have actually won the millions of dollars on tap.

What this leads to for the rest of the little group (that monthly invests in lottery tickets playing the same "lucky" numbers) remains the meat of the movie. The group members are all connected to the local school -- teacher, coach, counselor, bus driver, principal and janitor (the latter two played by Billy Burke, above, left, and Danny Glover, at right) -- which is slowly dying, as is the rest of the town, due to lack of funds. Mr. Meieran, after beginning his film with newsreel footage from the 1950s, shows us the wreck of this little city that is left, and it's one hell of a depressing sight.

Meieran's tossing together of elements like the lottery, fantasy (a nice scene in an out-of-nowhere diner, featuring the still gorgeous Bo Derek as a waitress), urgent economic problems and a sad-'n-happy combination of various family lives (that's Eric Laden and Deborah Ann Woll, above) makes for an interesting but untidy melange. We can appreciate the good performances, the urgency in the situation at hand, and the filmmaker's desire to do something about all this -- but we can't help wishing that he had been able to put it all together more cogently and believably.

Highland Park, from Tribeca Films, began its VOD run last week. Click here to learn where and how you can VOD it (but Tribeca really should update the web page on this film -- if it is indeed currently available On Demand).

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