Starring Elle Fanning, Ben Foster, Beau Bridges, Lili Reinhart
It’s puzzling to understand what interest French actress turned director Mélanie Laurent (“Operation Finale”) had in adapting Nic Pizzolatto’s (“True Crime”) first novel to film. She wasn’t the first choice for director, and Ben Foster replaced European Matthias Schoenaerts, the first choice for the lead role. The biggest gaffe here, not only is a film titled “Galveston” not filmed in Galveston, Texas, but it has little to do with the historic coastal city. It’s a crime thriller that hijacks its way through a lousy plot aiming for some type of redemption metaphor that’s lost by a complete misunderstanding of time and place. To be fair, I haven’t read Pizzolatto’s book, the first in his career, but Laurent’s screenplay is lazy both in character development and the laughable misrepresentations of Galveston.
Career criminal Roy Cady (Foster) is involved with some bad people, mainly his boss (Bridges) who fronts a criminal operation out of a laundromat in New Orleans. Cady is sent on an assignment, that’s an obvious setup, to rescue a 19-year-old prostitute Raquel Arceneaux (Fanning). The young girl is looking for adventure at any turn while Roy, diagnosed with a lung disease, is simply trying to stay alive one more day. The two unlikely travelers end up in Galveston at a seedy motel with other criminals and miscreants, run by the nosey Nancy (C.K. McFarland). Cady comes to care for Raquel and by helping her hopes to make good on all the rotten things he’s done with his life.
The only positive element Galveston has going for it is Arnaud Potier’s cinematography
It’s one thing for a film (“The Shallows”) to film one scene on an Australian beach that is supposed to be set in Galveston Australian beach. However, it’s quite another to film a movie about Galveston, with its many specific and unique attributes, in Georgia. Laurent focuses on the iconic Spanish moss in Georgia’s live oak trees because they are beautiful. Unfortunately, you won’t see many (any) of those on Galveston Island. Would you shoot a film called Manhattan in Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle in New York? Granted not everything is so obviously misrepresented, but for those who care about details, “Galveston” will be infuriating. Naming the film “Galveston” doesn’t make much sense, since less than 50% of the story even takes place there. This run of the mill criminal redemption story could have been set anywhere during any time, and could have easily been named Tybee Island.
Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) delivers his usual half-gone performance. The actor who loves Texas, rarely seems to get there on film, with his past few movies being set there, but filmed elsewhere. Fanning isn’t playing anything extraordinary here either, her characters stupidity and naiveté makes it hard for the audience to sympathize with her, despite the trauma we eventually learn that she has endured. Perhaps the only positive element Galveston has going for it is Arnaud Potier’s cinematography. The liquid-like framing, or the shadows never quite find a unified pattern, display true artistic insight. This project didn’t have a large budget, which I assume was why they did not film in Texas, but the lack of creativity and research makes this film feel unauthentic and uninspired.
Mélanie Laurent’s first English language film behind the camera is a lackluster effort.