Friday, September 23, 2005

DVD Review: Stateside

Stateside, in a nutshell, is a pointless journey with neither a compelling story nor an emotional payoff.

It’s the story of a young man who joins the Marines in lieu of serving jail time and begins a difficult relationship with a schizophrenic former actress. The film follows our young hero through basic training all the way to an abrupt (yet predictable) ending. The only surprise in store for viewers is in just how truncated the film feels and just how absent Val Kilmer ends up being.

See, the front of the DVD promises “one of Val Kilmer’s best performances"--which is misleading in a number of ways. While the performance is solid, it doesn’t come near his memorable turn as Doc Holiday in Tombstone, just as a ferinstance. And for all that his name pops up on the packaging, he simply doesn’t have that much screen time and his connection to the overall plot seems unresolved.

That defines a good bit of the problem: the action is disjointed, moving from scene to scene with little sense of connection or purpose. The screenplay appears to have had huge chunks slashed from the original story--chunks where no one bothered to smooth over the remaining rough edges. For that matter, whatever editing it went through, the finished script is littered with oblique, self-conscious dialog that made me groan.

The acting bounces from good to bad and there are a number of familiar faces popping up in little cameos (like Carrie Fisher’s particularly bitchy role), lending the feeling that somebody’s kid must have really wanted to make a movie and all the family friends chipped in to help. The unevenness could be acceptable if there were any way to connect to the characters--but it’s all so forced that there just isn’t a way to relate. The characters float through the movie seemingly without touching each other and most certainly without touching us.

So, yeah, I was pretty disappointed.


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