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The Reeler Blog

Your Mother's Road Movie

By John Oursler

One normally doesn’t associate a coming-of-age story with three middle-aged Mormon women, but that’s exactly what you get in director Christopher Rowley’s Bonneville (opening today in New York), a road movie for the 40-something woman. But whatever you do, don’t call it a midlife crisis.


(L-R) Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange and Joan Allen in Bonneville, opening today in New York (Photo: SenArt Films)

“You can come of age at many different points if your life,” co-star Joan Allen told The Reeler during a recent interview in New York. “Life is constantly changing -- it keeps asking things of you, no matter how old."

The film follows recently widowed Arvilla (Lange), who enlists the help of her best friends Carol (Allen) and Margene (Bates) in delivering her cremated dead husband’s ashes from their home in Salt Lake City to Santa Barbara, Calif. If it sounds like an odd combination of Weekend at Bernie’s meets The Golden Girls, it kind of is -- which is precisely its appeal. Director Rowley understands that even widows need a laugh sometimes. As such, he never lingers too long on Arvilla’s sadness or Carol’s uptight disposition, instead giving Kathy Bates’ character a healthy dose of self-deprecation and adding in some physical comedy to lighten the mood.

Like most successful road movies, Bonneville is only as good as its revolving cast of aimless drifters and tramps. The three women meet unsuspecting young hitchhiker Bo (Victor Rasuk) and aging truck driver Emmett (Tom Skerritt), indulging in the unpredictability of their journey by giving the young man a ride and the older man a night of dinner and dancing. Through their interaction with these men, they are exposed to a new perspective and philosophy absent from their everyday life. They learn that looks can in fact be deceiving and that maybe their reluctance has been holding them back.

"I think this film is sort of about Arvilla learning to live by herself and coming to terms with being on her own as an adult," Allen said. "And [about] my character learning to maybe be a little more open and realize the world is bigger than what she has experienced.”

On the surface, Bonneville could be gauged as Lifetime schmaltz. By the end, however, these adult women have finally realized that just because you’re middle-aged doesn’t mean you’ve stopped growing. Lange said she hopes Hollywood especially takes note. “Let’s face it, there is a large void of movies that deal with women,” she told me. “It’s a business, I know. If this movie does well, they will make more movies like this. Right now I don’t think women have the opportunity to see movies about themselves, so we’ll see how this does."

Posted at February 29, 2008 12:31 PM

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