All Dressed Up

Down in the Valley

Edward Norton, David Morse, Evan Rachel Wood, and Rory
Culkin star in a film written and directed by David

Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter

This is a frustrating film. I could recommend it quite highly on
the strength of Edward Norton’s performance, or David Morse’s, or
on the strength of it being an exceptionally well-made independent
film that takes risks in terms of its subject matter and

First-time director David Jacobson gets us involved and caring
about his story with breathtaking economy. Norton’s character puts
on his hat and sets off walking down a road, as if he had just made
the biggest decision of his life. Evan Rachel Wood’s 18-year-old
“Tobe” — short for October — strides purposefully out of her house,
trailed by her kid brother Lonnie (Rory Culkin), 13, who wants to
know where she is going. “Nowhere,” she tells him.

“Can I come?” pleads Lonnie.

Their father Wade (David Morse) comes home in his sheriff’s
uniform, calling “Hello” and getting no response. He walks into
Tobe’s room and finds her on the phone, with Lonnie sitting on the
floor by her bed. She tells Wade sullenly that he ought to knock,
and he replies, “I’ll start knocking when you start working.”

So far, so perfect. We are five minutes into the film, and
already we are taking sides. But, alas, this is not about a
dysfunctional, single-parent family. Wade is not the heavy; he is
not abusing either of his children. He admires Tobe because she has
“gumption,” but worries about her because he knows how easy it is
for headstrong adolescents to get into trouble.

This is enough story for me, these troubled people working it
out, but Jacobson has something else in mind. He throws a person
into the mix who is really crazy, and that kind doesn’t work things
out. You can’t say what happens next, but you know how it will end.
So, I lose interest.


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