“Palm Trees and Power Lines”
Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10)
In telling a cautionary tale, a film must be on point if its message is to be effectively conveyed. Regrettably, such is not the case in this story of a silver-tongued, 34-year-old sexual predator (Jonathan Tucker) in his efforts to win the affections of a disconnected adolescent from a fragmented household (Lily McInerny) and manipulate her into a life of degrading, subservient behavior. It’s a troubling tale, to be sure, one that has an important point to make. However, the execution leaves much to be desired. The film’s glacial pacing (especially in the first half) becomes tedious quickly, particularly with the inclusion of considerable needless incidental footage depicting mundane everyday activities, events that are undoubtedly intended to reflect the teen’s monotonous worldview but that grow eminently tiresome in short order. This is compounded by uneven character development, most notably that of the vulnerable protagonist, whose persona wavers wildly from incisively streetwise to exceedingly naïve and plainly outspoken to severely inhibited, undermining the believability of who she’s really supposed to be and her reactions to the circumstances she faces. That’s perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the conclusion, which, in my view, also stretches credibility somewhat (though I know there are those who would definitely beg to differ with me on that point). To its credit, the performances are all quite good, having earned two of the picture’s four Independent Spirit Award nominations for the portrayals turned in by Tucker and McInerny. Still, this overlong offering suffers from both the aforementioned issues, as well as some questionable camera work and a need for tighter editing. Writer-director Jamie Dack’s debut feature may have its origins in good intentions, but its followthrough frequently – and often widely – misses the mark.