What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this road trip dramedy about three middle-aged women looking back on their lives doesn't have a lot of age-inappropriate content, it probably won't be of much interest to kids. The main characters discuss sex and desire via innuendoes, and they see a woman in a casino who is there "on business" (she's a prostitute). A brief fight features some punching, kicking, and rolling in the dust (one woman needs stitches after). Mild language includes "hell" and "damn," and there's a little social drinking.
What's the story?
When Arvilla (Jessica Lange) arrives home in small-town Idaho after her husband's death, she's understandably depressed -- but she's also determined to fulfill his wish to have his ashes scattered over the open spaces he loved. She immediately faces tension with Joe's daughter from his first marriage, the bristly and very wealthy Francine (Christine Baranski), who insists that her father be returned to his "family" in Santa Barbara. Under threat of losing her house to Francine, Arvilla agrees to bring the urn to California, then turns the ordeal into an adventure by driving her husband's '66 Bonneville convertible cross-country. Her two best friends -- widowed Margene (Kathy Bates) and complacently married Carol (Joan Allen) -- come along; as they cross beautiful landscapes, the three women also find inner strength they didn't know they had.
Is it any good?
As this fairly familiar set-up probably implies, the women experience a series of life-changing episodes while traveling, the first involving a helpful young man named Bo (Victor Rasuk), who not only fixes their flat tire but also embodies a convenient object lesson for Arvilla, in that he's fulfilling a promise to his long-dead mother by finding his long-absent father. As luck would have it, they also meet a trucker, Emmett (Tom Skerritt), who falls instantly in love with charismatic, rambunctious Margene, while Carol, an observant Mormon, loosens up just long enough to play a Vegas slot machine, win $176,483, and have a glass of vodka to celebrate.
Innocuous but uninspired, BONNEVILLE is most effective when it forgets the contrived plot turns and lets the three women interact. The scenes in which Arvilla and Carol chat quietly while covering each other's faces in cleansing "mud," or in which Margene encourages Carol to join them on the "magic fingers" motel room bed, are convincing and sweet. They're also considerably less forced than the sequences that deal with lessons in tolerance, a slapsticky fight with a couple of interstate thieves, and Arvilla's unnecessary voice-over explanations.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about why road trip movies never seem to go out of style. What makes "road" stories so appealing? What do they tend to have in common? Do they share similar goals/messages? If so, what are they? Families can also discuss how good friends can help you survive a significant loss. What else can help with the grieving process?