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Winter Passing Movie Poster

Winter Passing

Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by
: Adam Rapp
Starring: Ed Harris, Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Amelia Warner, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Robert Beitzel
Released by: Freestyle Releasing

In Short: A struggling actress returns home to find her reclusive literary lion father (Ed Harris) living under the care of a couple of eccentrics (Will Ferrell and Amelia Warner).

Discontented Winter
A Dark Dramedy With Indie Sensibilities
By Duncan Birmingham

Reese Holden (Zooey Deschanel) is a sharp-tongued actress/ bartender stuck in a rut, not atypical of many struggling off-Broadway artists. Audiences are left with no doubt as to how alienated and miserable Reese is when she mercy-kills her pet cat in the Hudson River. The chance for salvation, or at least a nice lump of cash, comes in the form of a book editor (Amy Madigan) who wants to publish the love letters once exchanged between Reese’s novelist parents. Bent on getting these letters, Reese treks home to Michigan for the first time since her mother’s death.

It’s a classic set-up for the coming home genre favored by so many indie films, once again accompanied by a hip, moody soundtrack. The Sundance-style eccentricities pile up when Reese arrives home to find that her father’s senility and oddball behavior (Ed Harris in a sorcerer’s beard) have grown to such extremes that he lives in the garage trying to bang out one last novel, while his two quirky caregivers share the house. Shelly is the British former student whom Reese quickly grows jealous of, and Deschanel’s “Elf” co-star Will Ferrell keeps his pants on long enough to turn in a thoughtful, straight-man performance as the shy ex-Christian rocker and handyman Corbin.

There’s plenty to find fault with here. First time writer/director Rapp is predominately a playwright and his story unfolds a bit too slowly, with domestic situations rarely escalating to a genuine emotional payoff. The plot is the stuff of boilerplate melodrama with a heavy sprinkling of character eccentricities to hide the well-worn clichés underneath. However, Rapp solicits solid performances from his talented cast, and watching Deschanel’s Reese melt from feisty emotional iceberg to a mature, yet fragile woman, is the film’s true pleasure.

Deschanel's wide range of supporting roles have proven that she is a quirky and intelligent talent at home with both comedy and drama. This dramedy forces her to walk a high wire in the lead role, and she gives a raw, nuanced performance that keeps the film above mediocrity. Audiences with indie sensibilities who like their dark comedies very dark and their heroines rarely heroic will find in “Winter Passing” a quirky charm worth seeking out.

(Updated 01/21/08 NJ)

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