Times must be tough for actresses of a certain age, considering that two Oscar-winning females and a three-time Academy Award nominee are starring in piffle like Bonneville. It’s not that the picture is terrible, but for Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen to headline a female buddy movie filled with clichés and stock characters says a lot about the kinds of scripts they’re being sent these days. What a waste of talent.
The film jumps off with the death of Arvilla Holden’s (Lange) husband. Her stepdaughter (Christine Baranski) has never really liked her, and threatens to take Arvilla’s Idaho home away from her if she doesn’t deliver the ex-husband’s ashes to the family funeral in California—a move which the dead man expressly did not want. But, convinced by friends that she has no real choice in the matter, Arvilla sets off for the West Coast with friends Margene (Bates) and Carol (Allen) in a classic Pontiac Bonneville.
Cue “road trip” music. And ensuing meetings with quirky strangers, including a teenage hitchhiker (Victor Rasuk) looking for his family, as well as an amorous truck driver (Tom Skerritt) who falls for Margene’s party-animal qualities. There’s also some fun and games in Las Vegas, female bonding on a Lake Powell houseboat, and a funeral showdown—of sorts—with the bitchy stepdaughter.
Stop me if you’ve seen this before—because, of course, you have, in Lord knows how many movies and TV shows. Bonneville certainly doesn’t add anything new to this tired genre, and it also insults its talented leads by casting them in parts they could have—and probably have—done in their sleep. It’s not like Joan Allen hasn’t played any number of asexual prunes in her career—she even got an Oscar nomination for starring as one in The Crucible—so why ask this delightful actress to do another one? For that matter, why is Kathy Bates now starring with regularity as a pudgy hot mama? And Christine Baranski? Can we give her something else to do than appear as a world-weary bitch? You get my drift.
Bonneville debuted at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. The fact the film hasn’t been released until now says all you need to know about its commercial viability. Yet the fact that it arrives in theaters D.O.A. says nothing about its stars; they remain terrific performers, who deserve much better roles.