Northfork

September, 2003, Drama

Directed by:Michael Polish

Starring:James Woods, Nick Nolte, Duel Farnes, Mark Polish, Daryl Hannah, Peter Coyote, and Robin Sachs

Movie directing would not appear to be a family sport, yet there have been more than a few instances in which brothers have achieved outstanding results from a team effort; the Hughes twins, (Menace II Society) the Tavianis, (Padre Padrone, Night of the Shooting Stars) not to mention the brothers Coen, (Fargo, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, et al)…and of course, we have brothers to thank for the seemingly endless Matrix series-- so the phenomenon isn't as rare as one might suppose.

Mark and Michael Polish are members this group; the creepy but effective Twin Springs Idaho got them started, and in this third joint effort, they've produced a movie to make the hearts of film students everywhere flutter madly. The rest of us will have to settle for strained backsides.

Michael directs, Mark acts and they both write--this time about a Montana town about to be submerged under a new reservoir, circa 1955. James Woods, Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah and Anthony Edwards head a superb cast, each given lines that are often cryptically clever and just as frequently obtuse. A half-dozen government bureaucrats are assigned, in pairs, to pry the town's remaining holdouts out of their homes before everything in their endless landscape becomes the country's latest example of progress. This simple device allows the Polish brothers to introduce an array of bizarre characters that obviously delighted the actors playing them. The film's cinematography matches the script's peculiar penchant for turning the architectural aphorism "less is more" on its head; here, the cast keeps getting in the way of the harshly beautiful but oppressively empty landscape as their arch performances obscure the Orwellian points the authors are so earnestly trying to make. Only Nick Nolte, (as an aging Catholic priest striving to place orphans in decent families) brings his character to life--but he's burdened with delivering one too many metaphysical observations about the meaning of it all, so he winds up buried like the deceased members of the community whose bodies are to be exhumed before being inundated. 

Make no mistake about it, this movie has its moments; there is an elegiac dignity about the marginalized people who cling to their ramshackle homes like lint on a cheap suit, and the monotone dialogues between the government agents have a ring of painfully acquired accuracy. But the Polishes try for too much and fall victim to their own cleverness in doing so, making this confusing examination of too many subjects a case in which the often-interesting parts far exceed the sum of the whole.   

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