Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dear Eleanor: Movie Review

Charming and entertaining journey with history, family, friends and an escaped convict.

Dear Eleanor combines so many perfectly compatible elements that it just effortlessly tells a story both fun and light, and historically interesting. Set in 1962 with two fifteen year-old girls, the movie is part road trip comedy, part historical drama, part coming-of-age dramedy, and all flows together very nicely because the adventure the girls find themselves in is funny, delightful, thought-provoking and very charming. 2016

Directed by: Kevin Connolly

Screenplay by: Cecilia Contreras, Amy Garcia

Starring: Liana Liberator, Isabelle Fuhrman

Ellie (Liana Liberato) is the daughter of a recently-passed second-wave feminist, naming her daughter after the trail-blazing female hero Eleanor Roosevelt. Ellie’s mother died on the night she was supposed to get to introduce Eleanor Roosevelt at a function. Since then, Ellie has been depressed, her father even more-so and it’s been left to the young girl to take care of her family. Max (Isabelle Fuhrman) is her best friend and decides Eleanor Roosevelt is the only one who can help her.

What makes the road trip part of this movie work so well is that it really is funny. Let’s just say there’s some lying involved, some teenage stupidity involved, and some good-intentioned misleading. Which ends up turning the road trip into an entertaining adventure in evading the law and Ellie’s father.

Which brings us to the cast. Brilliant casting for an independent movie with everybody playing their part perfectly. Every character gets to include elements of comedy with genuine human reactions. The supporting cast is highlighted by Luke Wilson as Ellie’s father whose melancholy has definitely put him on the defensive end of parenting; Joel Courtney as a guy who has a crush on Max; Josh Lucas as Alcatraz escapee Frank Morris; and Jessica Alba as a woman who loves performing and is slowly, but not completely, losing her grip on reality.

Is the fact that Alcatraz escapee Frank Morris is a character in this movie a little disarming? Yeah, it should be. In order to get everything in that the filmmakers wanted to include, some things had to be glossed over. So while there are things like Morris’ storyline, and travelling across the country in a motorcycle sidecar, including a leg from Kentucky to New York City which goes awfully quickly that aren’t fully logically explained, the audience is still given enough to get invested in the girls’ story.

The backdrop to the girls’ trip is the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It could have been included to a greater degree, I also loved that the lead characters are just fifteen year-old girls, and they act their age. There’s the occasional fibbing of their age, lying to their parents, borrowing a car which they shouldn’t, but I’m assuming every fifteen year-old in the 60s has done that.

Dear Eleanor isn’t straight comedy and it isn’t straight coming-of-age drama, but the combination of a few ludicrous plans as well as placing it in an actual historical time really helps turn this from a simple drama of family and friends into an entertaining journey.