Boundaries doesn’t go far enough

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REVIEW

Boundaries

Stars: 3.0

Starring Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Schaal, Peter Fonda and Christopher Lloyd

Written and directed by Shana Feste

Rated: 14A for coarse language and adult images

Runtime: 104 minutes

Now playing at the Princess Theatre, 10337 82 Ave. in Edmonton
Call 780-433-0728 or visit www.princesstheatre.ca for more information.

In my world, it’s tough to top Christopher Plummer. He’s ultimately watchable and incredibly endearing, even when he’s playing an utter bastard. Case in point: his turn as John Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World last year. Plummer swooped in at the last minute to replace Kevin Spacey, learned and filmed his role in record time, and was spot on perfect. He was absolutely robbed at the Oscars. He deserves 20 of those trophies, yet has only ever taken home one.

Case not in point: Boundaries. In writer/director Shana Feste’s new comedy-drama, he plays Jack Jaconi, a charming scamp who wreaks such havoc in his daughter Laura’s (Vera Farmiga) life that her ring tone for him is the sort of siren that one might here at a nuclear power plant. She doesn’t answer many of his calls though because she has set up such good boundaries with him. Every stray animal she comes across, however, is immediately adopted right in. She has a veritable menagerie of injured, ill or otherwise unpulchritudinous pets at her house.

It’s only when she needs his help that she calls her dad back, setting them off on a road trip. Her son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) just got kicked out of school and she needs to get him from Seattle to Los Angeles so that he can stay with her sister JoJo (Kristen Schaal) for awhile until she can figure her life out a bit more. Jack has money and pledges to cover Henry’s private school tuition. He is being kicked out of his seniors’ home anyway, so fate brings the trio together for some quirky family bonding time. 

Things are complicated to begin with and get exponentially more so once they head off. Jack is as conniving as he is charming. Needless to say, he soon abets the delinquency of a minor in his legally dubious hobbies, all while sabotaging the itinerary of the trip to accommodate his desires.

Now, Plummer is an accomplished actor and Farmiga can certainly hold her own against the thespian but I get the sense that they each did as much as they could with the material at hand. It’s not necessarily that the characters weren’t interesting or that the scenario wasn’t viable. It’s just that the structure made it seem more like a tragicomic soap opera, where every three minutes there’s a punchline before moving on to the next scene. It’s a disservice to a story that would otherwise ring truer to so many people who can relate to being a grown adult who still struggles with her or his own parents. 

I liked Boundaries as much as I could. The cast was great and even supporting players like Christopher Lloyd and Peter Fonda pop by like the guest celebrities on Fantasy Island who parlay their deft abilities and recognizability into marvellous little subplots.

Geez, what is it that’s holding this movie back? Maybe that’s where it ultimately succeeds but only in a metaphorical sense. After all, what better analogy than a film that really should be more than it is, has everything going for it, and still fails, much like Jack does?

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About Author

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.