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IN SHORT: A good first effort hampered by pace and enhanced by a killer performance by Ed Harris. [Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving alcoholism, language, brief violence, and for smoking. 108 minutes]
First time filmmakers, and identical twins, Logan and Noah Miller have done a very impressive job getting their first film made. Their inexperience as filmmakers, and the indication that they may actually have tremendous talent to bring to the film world once they get some experience, shines through in Touching Home, which is as tedious as it is touching.
Yeah, that's a real back-handed compliment but the truth is all your going to get from this site. We missed a big screen showing of the film and settled for a DVD screener. Not our usual practice but we have medical garbage which is rearing its ugly head after twenty years, and it's what we had to do. Watching a screener gives us the opportunity to just hit "stop" and let the film go belly up on its own, which was our feeling about a third of the way through. We didn't do that -- actually, we just hit 'pause" and took a stretch -- and by the end of the film there was actually the faintest hint of a tear beginning to form in one eye.
Could it be that The Miller Brothers have brought to the screen the rarest of film forms -- a chick flick for men? Since most of this story is taken from their own experiences with their dad, an alcoholic who died homeless in a jail cell, we can't fault it for drawing tears. A chick flick, at least by our definition, relies on emotional manipulation. In the case of Touching Home, again based on real life, we're willing to cut some slack.
We grew up friendly with a pair of identical twins -- we could tell 'em apart but it took at least a year or two before we figured it out. You don't have that liberty in the story of Lane and Clint Winston (Logan and Noah Miller, respectively) and, only as their life paths finally move in different directions is that difference clear. All their lives the boys have had each other and they both have known, from single digits on up, that that was going to be it. They know their father, Charlie (Ed Harris), has problems with alcohol. They make excuses when dad doesn't show at school and Coach Perk has to drive them home from the practice field -- both boys have aspirations to Big League baseball. They don't need to make excuses as they reach college age . . . Sheriff Perk (Robert Forster) has locked up or driven the elder Winston home more times than he can count.
In the summer times, and at least for the year of this story, all three Winstons work at a local mine of some sort. The father lives out of his truck. The boys pay rent for rooms in their grandma Eleanor's (Lee Meriwether) home and both take to mind her warnings to stay away from her box of wine in the fridge. Yep, it runs in the family, and both boys figure that out early on. Also in the family is uncle Clyde (Brad Dourif) who has some sort of mental impairment and spends most of his time in front of a canvas, painting.
As young men, they view their way out of the mines is via the baseball field. One is a pitcher. One is a catcher. Both are determined to make it through tryouts for the minor leagues, and if they don't make the cut this year they will return until the teams tell them not to. We admire that kind of determination. We root for the "boys" when minor league coaches come through town to hold an open work out. And it hurts when what happens happens . . .
Any complaint we can offer about the slow pace of the film vanishes at about this point. Once you get to this particular place in the film you're in it. So is the lovely Rachel (Ishiah Benben) who wins Clint's heart and thus interferes with their baseball plans. Lane remains determined to pursue baseball, and all his extra wages go into a glass jar in the closet. At the $4000 mark, Lane is off to Arizona for a promised tryout.
Oh, have we mentioned that dad also has a gambling problem on top of his status as a booze hound? Do you think that is going to rear its ugly head as the film plays out? You betcha . . ..
We wouldn't have said that much if we weren't sure, if you make it this far into the film, that knowing something awful is going to happen is going to ruin it for you. This is thanks to the performance of Mr. Harris, which is by far the best we've seen yet this year. The father knows he has major problems. The father also loves his boys and truly wants to help them succeed with their dreams. Thanks to the intervention of the sheriff, that may (or may not) happen. Whatever does occur, and that comes close enough to the film's end that we won't spill it, moved us.
I won't use that "t" word again 'cuz it'll make me sound like a wimp
Pacing aside, there's a really good movie here. Somewhere.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Touching Home, he would have paid . . .
Wait and rent. If you need to pause as we did, you'll still be sitting when the film finally gets moving and delivers its kick.
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