Like Dandelion Dust (2009)

Like Dandelion Dust simmers, no steep or steeple.

Rip and Wendy Porter are in a quandary; after seven years of incarceration, Rip learns that Wendy was pregnant with their son before his alcohol and rage fueled misbehaving sent him to prison.  Worse yet, conflicted on what to do she put the child up for adoption.  Fueled by jailhouse religion, self-redemption or notions of fatherhood grandeur, Rip pushes to get the child back in order to rebuild their fractured marriage.  The trouble is, their son is in the care of a wealthy couple in Florida, the only family he has ever really known and they don’t want to let him go.  Further demons detour best intentions when Rip buckles under the strain of hard labor, doing the right thing, and staying sober.

Emotional and psychological conflict keeps the lights on in this modest melodrama based on the novel of the same name by New York Times best-selling author Karen Kingsbury, though the dueling couples of one-off type characters rarely exceed expectations.  The premise operates on effective dramatic opportunities but it plods and at times comes to an abrupt stop; frequently the characters resort to telegraphing every next step in insipid, at times insulting to the senses and uninteresting ways.  It’s not that this is a bad film, rather lukewarm in that Hallmark channel, Inspiration Network sort of way that puts morality lessons and commonality ahead of unique characters with genuine fallibility as fuel for entertaining verisimilitude.

Like Dandelion Dust gets mixed reviews – some average out to O.K. Rottentomatoes, and just functional others – yet I have to go with miss it.  I don’t have a ticket stub for “you decide” then again you can find wishy-washy elsewhere.  You’re here for the straight talk.  The kids have gone to bed, metaphorically speaking.  See it if you want sentimentally average.  Miss it if you want lumps in your oatmeal, pot holes in the freeway, poorly dressed coworkers that make your duds spiffy, or flaws for the sake of flaws because an imperfect world doesn’t have a limiter and over modulated is par for the course.  This film feels mechanical for the sake of intricate, burdened because it wants to even out in the end.  Yet the jagged emotional outbursts and inner turmoil seems corralled, stunted even, kept by some unknown reasoning that can only be attributed to lackadaisical direction or no direction at all.  Some directors populate their films, or in some cases have their films populated for them by producers or the bankroll department, with strong actors that are allowed to do what they think is right.  This isn’t always a bad thing, just average and punchless – even De Niro needs a good director to spar with, to kick around and scratch out the real details.  When a director rests on the talent of the actor the story suffers and the performance arrives half-baked, undone and misunderstood.  This story can’t get going, stuck half way between first and second gear and it shows as little more than a sluggish examination of bureaucratic and familial wrong doings, pitting class against class in psychological warfare and deep-rooted human selfishness.  Right and wrong feels colored in that 1950’s televised western kind of way where the bad guys are flat-black as their black hats and the good guys are too good to take seriously.  This translates into a sort of cinematic transcendental idealism insofar as alcoholism, strained parenthood and second chances are relegated to what we think they are in and of themselves but not necessarily how they personally affect us.  For those without first hand experience it’s the mannequin in the window dressing, a safe distance without ever getting off the sidewalk. After two minutes it’s stepping on to the next Spiderman, Superman, end-of-the-world-scenario flick or less, something on t.v.

Jon Gunn directs and edits (though uncredited),  generally a deadly combination as the roles blur the line between the necessary and the interesting.  His choices are evident enough yet confounded by a prevailing everydayness – the mistake of rooting your story in average is preventing the dramatic from escaping the ordinary.  Gunn navigates truthful but it’s not unique enough and the roads look all the same; careful is enough for television and b-grade films but natural is not synonymous with exceptional or truthful performance under imaginary circumstances.  Meisner had it right in emphasizing the importance of the moments and the role spontaneity plays in governing the action – it is too bad Gunn isn’t a student or maybe it’s just his inexperience that mistakes the difference between truthful and pedestrian.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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3 Responses to Like Dandelion Dust (2009)

  1. Bea Sempere says:

    Very interesting. I just wrote a blog post about Blue Valentine, which you liked, and Like Dandelion Dust, which you weren’t that crazy about – http://skippingstonememories.blogspot.com/2011/06/friday-night-at-movies.html. I recently watched Blue Valentine and remembered your review. I gave it two thumbs down. In my opinion, the characters were flat, I had sympathy for Michelle’s character, Cindy, at all. As a matter of fact, I didn’t like her character. It was boring, unless you enjoy a movie that’s about sex. Independent films are character driven, and Blue Valentine failed for me. There are plenty of other relationship movies out there that have depth (none come to mind right now, but know I’ve watched). But I liked “Like Dandelion Dust”. I felt for both parents. I also loved the explanation about dandelion dust–I feel the title went well with the movie. Both parents wished for their son, letting the wish free, and the wish found a home.

    • rorydean says:

      Hi Bea — Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. Interesting, isn’t it? How we approach our films and the cinematic experience? Exactly why I started this whole thing (we just celebrated our 1-year anniversary). I’m heading over to your blog as I type, well after I type I suppose is more accurate. I’d like to read more about your thoughts and experiences with these films. I appreciate that you remembered my review of Blue Valentine. Curious that you found it so…well, bad. I can see how though. I mean it is a particularly challenging film and the characters are hard to latch on to. I agree with you about Indie films – very much rooted in character, fueled by a sharp and purposeful script that demands clear and cogent direction. Without a recipe all films suffer from disharmony, the experience relegated to what I call single serving cinema – once watch, forget and move on. There are no prizes in Cracker Jack cinema anymore than one film or style fits all – Indies have it even more difficult in that they don’t have all the fancy effects and green screen shenanigans to hide behind.

      I’ll write more on your blog. See you there.

      As far as quirky, well-defined character-centric films:

      Pieces of April (highly recommended, a great performance by Katie Holmes)
      Requiem for a Dream (though admittedly deep, dark and disturbing can preclude the senses)
      You and Me and Everyone We Know (though watchable, it suffers from Indie-malaise)
      Run Lola Run (stretches the odd bounds but nevertheless memorable characters)
      Animal Kingdom (really deserving more attention, though dark with prickly edges)

  2. Hey Rory! Reading the plot/premise for this film, it really had the potential to be so much more than it obviously turned out… a shame, again, for all the effort and work going into such a potentially riveting story, to have such a lackluster result is frustrating to say the least.
    Great review, as always, and I think I’ll take your advice on this one.

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