Bonneville – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

It’s never easy to lose a family member. Never. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose a spouse. Someone you’ve spent your life with. Someone you’ve spent your dreams with, your hopes, your good times, your bad times with. When Arvilla’s (Jessica Lange) husband Joe passes away, she is devastated. They have been everything to each other. Enter Arvilla’s stepdaughter Francine (Christine Baranski), her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage who informs her that she is taking the body to be buried in the family cemetery – next to her mother. A passionate traveler, Joe’s final wishes were to have his ashes scattered across the country he so loved, but he never got around to updating his will. Arvilla has nothing concrete that verifies Joe’s final wishes, so she must transport the cremated body to the “family” funeral held several states away and she enlists the help of her two best friends, Margene (Kathy Bates) and Carol (Joan Allen) to accompany her on the emotional road trip.

The beginning of Bonneville is very very depressing. Remember the ending of Steel Magnolias? How just about every woman cried the first time watching that? Bonneville begins the way so many films end, I have to admit, I was skeptical of where this could be going. I was relieved to find that the tone quickly shifted to a more upbeat female bonding road trip kind of film. The film does have a very sad feel to the whole thing though, as Arvilla slowly learns to let go of her husband and works her way through the mess of emotions involved.

Throughout the road trip, each of the three women undergo their own transformation. For Arvilla, her transformation begins when they pick up a hitchhiker named Bo. Bo is a young man in his late teens who is hitchhiking to Arizona to find the father he has never met. He and Arvilla have a very sweet connection. She sees him as a son type figure and he immediately has respect for her. She needed that kind of connection to begin the process of moving on and being able to deal with her emotions. Margene is lonely and needs a man. Her transformation is a little more obvious – she gets one. His name is Emmitt (Tom Skerritt) and he’s a truck driver that they keep running into. They go out on a date and are inseparable afterwards. Carol is a little bit more complicated. All three of the women are Mormon, but Carol is the most conservative of the bunch. When they pick up Bo, who is Hispanic, Carol immediately eyes him like he’s going to steal something or take them for granted. She calls her husband constantly to check up on him, worried that he can’t get along without her. Finally, closer to the end of their journey, the three women stop at a casino. Carol reluctantly puts a coin in a slot machine and wins. From this point on, you can tell a veil has been lifted. She’s easier to get along with and much less uptight. The women needed this road trip, not only to support their friend Arvilla, but to better themselves.

There’s no way a director can go wrong when he’s working with a cast that is this seasoned and beloved. Joan Allen, even when playing a character as annoying as hers, is still better than half the actresses out there. Kathy Bates is simply always fun to watch. Tom Skerritt is getting more handsome and more charming with age. Christine Baranski, though I prefer her in a comedic role, is still very effective as the bitchy step-daughter. Even Jessica Lange, who is always a little too ditzy for my taste, does a fine job here. She uses her trademark ditziness to her advantage and winds up bringing more depth to the character than I thought she would.

Being a road-trip movie, the scenery plays a big part. Boy is it gorgeous. Never in all my dreaming about traveling the country have I ever once thought about visiting the Salt Flats. After this movie, I’d like to see them.

The script is possibly the film’s downfall. It takes some time to get going not only because the film starts out with a very sad situation, but because the dialogue is weak when introducing our characters. Kathy Bates’s character mentions way too many times how she would like to have a man. Joan Allen’s character mentions way too many times that she’s never left her husband alone. And Jessica Lange just stares blankly and looks flustered, not really offering too much more than, “But Joe didn’t want that.” It really takes some time to fully develop the characters and can be frustrating for the viewer.

Even with the frustration, Bonneville is still a sweet movie. It explores the loss of a spouse and how to deal with the emotions that go along with that, but in a positive (and probably not so realistic) way. Ultimately, it’s about three women who form a stronger friendship and therefore better themselves.

The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The soundtrack to this film is beautiful and really stands out with the exceptional sound quality of this disc. The visuals, as I mentioned before, are gorgeous. The transfer is flawless.

Standard Behind the Scenes featurette.
Alternate and Deleted Scenes that really don’t provide anything that is absolutely necessary.
A gag reel.
Red Hat Society promo, that I thought was pretty stereotypical.

Previews: Ace of Hearts, Love’s Unfolding Dream

Overall, I thought Bonneville was a harmless road trip chick flick that gives some laughs and a lot to relate to. I have a feeling my mom would like it a lot more than I did.

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20th Century Fox presents Bonneville. Directed by Christopher N. Rowley. Starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Christine Baranski, Tom Skerritt. Written by Daniel D. Davis. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: June 24, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.

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