|© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
|L to R: Barbara Dana as Ada Purdy and Alan Arkin as
Flagg Purdy in
© Rubicon™ Productions Ltd, 2006. All Rights Reserved.
As he has proven in several other projects, no
one can play the irascible, stubborn guy better
enjoyed a long and distinguished career and
who recently earned his third Academy Award
nomination for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE stars
in the lightweight comedy RAISING FLAGG.
Playing Flagg Purdy, a local Oregon handyman
who has a longstanding if unarticulated grudge
with general store owner Gus Falk (Austin
Pendleton), Arkin anchors this slight,
Flagg and Gus have been friends for years but
also have had a rivalry that includes everything
from poker to checkers to Flagg's wife Ada
(Barbara Dana). After a spat, Flagg wakes up
and discovers that Gus' sheep are grazing and
urinating near the pump house that supplies
water to the Purdy home (although on Gus'
property). A contretemps ensues resulting in a
lawsuit instigated by Flagg Purdy. When he
wins the case on a technicality, Flagg discovers
that coming out on top sometimes has
unforeseen strings. In his case, townsfolk
refuse to hire him or cancel jobs and Gus
reluctantly stops carrying the eggs Ada's
chickens produce. Flagg has become something
of a pariah in the town and after one of his old
friends suggests that Purdy has much in
common with his deceased father -- well, it
becomes too much. Flagg takes to his bed and
announces that he is dying and wants to see all
of his children.
So reluctantly his kids arrive one by one: Travis
(Daniel Quinn), the hippie-ish purveyor of
compost worms, Rachel (Lauren Holly), the
high-powered real estate agent who helps turn
farmland into developments, Eldon (Matthew
Arkin), the preacher who rides a motorcycle,
Tammy (Lyssa Browne) who appears to be
having marital problems, and Jenny (Stephanie
Lemelin), the youngest who still lives at home.
Missing is the eldest daughter, Ann Marie
(Glenne Headley), a successful radio show host
noted for her homespun common sense. (Of
course, she eventually is persuaded to see her
father; it's that kind of movie.)
Co-written by Neal Miller, his wife Nancy Miller,
and Dorothy Velasco, RAISING FLAGG marks
Miller's debut as a feature filmmaker after a
distinguished career in television.
Unfortunately, that small screen sensibility
infects this motion picture. I couldn't help
thinking that the movie would just as easily
play on cable television as on the big screen.
The story is fairly slight and some of the
characters are broadly drawn or not sketched at
Arkin does a terrific job in a part that he
probably could play in his sleep. Headley as the
headstrong older daughter has a couple of
moments as do Holly and Matthew Arkin (Alan's
real-life son from his first marriage). The real
revelation of the movie is Barbara Dana.
Formerly married to Arkin, she shares a
wonderful chemistry with the actor which helps
the audience root not only for her but for them
as a couple. Dana has been a character actress
for many years, but this is one of the best roles
she's had and she runs with it, providing some
authentic heart and soul to the movie.
Pendleton also delivers a nice turn as Gus.
RAISING FLAGG will probably get some
mileage on the heels of Alan Arkin's Oscar
nomination, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
It's just that the movie had so much unmet
potential, the actors -- and the audience --
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief drug content
Running time: 102 mins.