Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Stand at Paxton County: Movie Review

A good story with over-wrought drama.

I tend to love based on true stories, but I’m not a fan of creating faux tension to heighten the drama of based on true stories. It’s a common issue with historical indies, and an unsurprising but unfortunate pitfall for The Stand at Paxton County, which takes an issue people should care about, crafts some good characters and then creates multiple life-or-death stand-offs because one isn’t enough.   2020

Directed by: Brett Hedlund

Screenplay by: Carl Morris, David Michael O'Neill

Starring: Jacqueline Toboni, Michael O'Neill

The true story part is a “good Samaritan” law – Title 23 in North Dakota which allows anybody to report suspected cases of animal abuse and the state will come in, take the animals without due process and without any rights afforded to the animal owners. A very poorly written law probably made in good faith which makes it very easy for bad people to screw over the common man.

The bad people here are state government officials including the local Sheriff. At times, they come off a little cartoonishly bad, but the good characters aren’t unfairly good, there is some quality writing especially to the lead character of Janna Connelly (Jacqueline Toboni). She’s overseas in the military and returns home to help her father recover from a medical issue. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her father so she’s not planning on staying long, piss off the Deputy, have a one-night stand, pet some horses, and maybe help out on the ranch if she feels like it.

Instead, her father becomes the latest victim of Title 23, so she does what she can to help out, which involves putting herself at the center of a legal battle between the farmers and evil government officials. The case unfolds at a good pace, with some really interesting developments, and characters like Janna, the Deputy, the local reporter, the one-night-stand-turned-ranch hand who all come across as real people with genuine emotions.

For an independent film, the production value is mostly good. A few moments with dark lighting, but makes really good use of real locations; the score is used a bit too much to heighten the drama, but also really easy to over-look it if you’re invested in the story. Those who like rural stories with real-life consequences will probably get the most out of it.

The drama gets over-wrought at times, and I’m one-hundred percent positive that the final stand-off did not occur like that in real life, if there even was a stand-off (doubtful), but I do appreciate the story The Stand at Paxton County is trying to tell.