I grew up in a small town. Granted, it might not be as small as the one depicted in HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS, but it was still pretty small. In many respects, it had the same kind of attitude about it – it was languishing a slow death over the loss of industry and population but the local community had the backbone to try to stave off its untimely demise. The sense of family wasn’t exactly the same, but that’s why we watch movies, isn’t it? To see some of what we’d like to have there but were missing? While its sentiments were in the right place, I still thought HOME was a bit depressing at times.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Disillusioned actress Sunny returns to her hometown of Bent Arrow, Texas, to attend her mother’s funeral and provide guardianship for a half-sister she never knew, 10-year-old Cotton. The dusty old town is struggling to stay alive, but maintains solace for an ex-NFL player, Butch, who is coping with a heart-wrenching loss by painting watercolor postcards at a roadside stand. Sunny and Butch bond over their mutual relationships with Cotton, and come up with a plan to help save the town. When tragedy strikes, their plans are derailed, but hope glimmers in the distance.”
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (aka WATERCOLOR POSTCARDS) is filled with proper amount of American grit to make it believable. Basically, it’s a love story wrapped up in a larger story about family and community, what those things mean in the modern age, and perhaps even how we’ve lost them a bit along the way. It’s packaged showcasing some recognizable names and faces, including Country performer Laura Bell Bundy, BREAKING BAD’s Jonathan Banks, and TV’s John C. McGinley, but the film essentially belongs on Bundy and young star Bailee Madison’s shoulders. As the central siblings, they show as much determination as possible to rise above their circumstances – dire though they may seem in the moment – and they certainly put about as pretty a face on American life as possible.
Sadly, the script by Conrad Goode just lacks depth. Bundy’s Sunny is struggling with a drug addiction that gets some good screen time but lacks any real teeth much less a greater cause. Goode – taking on one of the lead acting roles as well – is believable as an ex-NFL quarterback suffering from a failed marriage, but scenes with his ex (the lovely Claudia Christian) later in the flick lack any possible indication of bad times much less bitter feelings. Also, the fact that he looks old enough to be Bundy’s father doesn’t bode well for their inevitable romantic entanglements … so maybe Sunny’s drug abuse stems from unresolved daddy issues? Madison plays Cotton with the right amount of precociousness, though the story shackles her with some kid-friendly precognition (she can apparently “see the future” in her dreams) that seems out of place.
Don’t get me wrong: HEART wears its heart on its sleeve well enough that I enjoyed enough of it for what it was. Still, it’s hard to reconcile so quirky narrative choices (the drug use, the lack of seriousness afforded some of the secondary characters – like giving alcohol to a minor – and some curiously strong workplace violence and domestic abuse issues) with the feel-good packaging of the piece. There’s an awful lot of feel-bad in there.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS (aka WATERCOLOR POSTCARDS) (2013) is produced by Watercolor Entertainment. DVD distribution is being handled by the reliable Arc Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? This is one smartly assembled film with some high quality sights and sounds (and especially the lovely voice of Bundy) from start-to-finish. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, the disc boasts none.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. Cute-as-a-button Bailee Madison and hot-as-hell Laura Bell Bundy don’t quite give audiences a reason to watch this middle-America tearjerker more than once, but maybe that’s enough to find a cause to celebrate. You’ve been warned – it’s fairly depressing at times, and despite a family-friendly appearance to the packaging it deals fairly honestly and openly with drug use and pre-marital sex; but there is a strong sense of family and community that lifts you up in the right places.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arc Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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