Starring Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Christopher Lloyd, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Schaal, Peter Fonda
If Vera Farmiga hadn’t already made a handful of films just like “Boundaries,” I might have liked it better. Shana Feste isn’t the most subtle or accomplished film maker either. Her previous films “Country Strong” or “Endless Lover” certainly put females at the center of their own stories, which I like, but her writing and directing is without any nuance. Once again Farmiga is cast as the kooky modern mom trying to make sense of extraordinary circumstance. It’s a role she could play asleep. That’s not to say she isn’t good in it, when the script allows. In one scene in particular, devoid of the rest of the film’s foolishness, she finally gets to the heart of issues with a neglectful father, a brief high-note for the film.
Divorced mother, struggling with a troublemaking teenager and a mentally debilitating job leaves Laura Jaconi (Farmiga) no choice but to make contact with her disappointing father-turned criminal, Jack (Plummer). She’s guilt tripped into driving her 80-year-old father from Seattle to Los Angeles, with son Henry (MacDougall) and their various stray dogs in exchange for enough money for private school. “I’m a mess,” she often says, guilty about picking up additional strays, and sleeping with her insensitive ex-husband (Cannavale). What Laura doesn’t realize is that Jack and Henry have struck a partnership, dealing drugs every time the old man yells “diaper change.”
Can’t stop with the jokes and predictable plot turns long enough to find what’s important.
Between the stupidity and the craziness, there is a decent point behind the movie, maybe even a couple. However, “Boundaries” can’t stop with the jokes and predictable plot turns long enough to find what’s important. Farmiga is fun to watch, whether she is in the horror series “The Conjuring,” a venerable psychologist in “The Departed,” or these disposable indie soccer-mom movies that will likely end up as filler on Lifetime. She’s versatile and a warm presence on screen. Plummer might be playing another rich old man, but it’s a far cry from his recent controversial John Paul Getty performance.
The marijuana element of the film is also a stereotypical travesty of stories being set in the Pacific Northwest. Each and every movie that’s set in either Seattle or Oregon now seems to feature that drug. Like most, “Boundaries” uses it for comedy and presents it as a social norm, similar to the way cigarettes are unnecessarily being reintroduced into film. Feste never finds the right balance between the silliness and the heavier moments. One-minute Jack is cutting up with the ex-husband and punching him in the face the next, with little to no understanding how the character was driven to this action. “Boundaries” is a film that could have used a few more narrative boundaries.
The absurdity in “Boundaries” too often negates the heart of the story.