SAM AND ELVIS: EXCELLENT PRO-LIFE INDIE ABOUT A TEEN, HER AUNT AND A STUFFED DOG *

SHORT TAKE:

Well made indie film about the relationship between a foster teen, her eccentric aunt, and a pro-life message.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Older teens and up for some mild cussing but mostly for the conversation and plot topics of family violence and teen sexuality.

LONG TAKE:

Who would have thought you could make a charming (mostly) family friendly comedy about a dead dog, an abused foster child, and her eccentric aunt. Well writer-director Jeffrey Ault manages to do just that in the movie Sam and Elvis. Based on Susan Price Monnot’s play titled Dead Dogs Don’t Fart, the story is about a bright but defensive and hostile orphaned foster teenager named Samantha played by Marcela Griebler placed in the care of her Aunt Olina played by Sally Daykin who in turn lives alone with her taxidermied dog Elvis.

This little indie film starts off a bit clunky as Olina expresses her doubts to Elvis, avoids an incessantly ringing phone and eats the random junk food she finds about her cluttered home. However, it finds its footing quickly once the aunt and her ward are brought together and bounce their strong personalities against each other.

The acting demands occasionally become significant but newcomer Griebler holds her own. Rounding out the cast are Pete Penuel as Larry, Olina’s platonic friend and Sara Hood as Rebecca, the well-intentioned and overly sincere but somewhat inept social worker who serves as occasional comic relief.

Ault uses simple and natural settings and clothes that likely came out of the actors own wardrobes. This is to the plus, as the focus is correctly placed on the relationships involved. The other production values like cinematography, sound and the background music are sterling and perfectly meet the mood of this small gem filmed almost entirely within Olina’s house.

People speak their minds in Sam and Elvis. No polite pussy footing around impolite or bad behavior. No tip toeing around differences of opinion. And in this there is a large plus in the negative.

What I mean by that is – despite circumstances which emerge in the plot, which I won’t divulge but you can easily guess, at no time does anyone consider abortion as an option for anyone. At no time is it suggested that an unborn baby is merely a “fetus” or some other euphemism for unborn child, which circumlocution liberals and pro-death dealers fling around like a shield to disguise the holocaust level murders they champion. A baby is called a baby regardless of whether it is in or out of a womb. And that is a breath of fresh air.

There is a bit of mild cussing sprinkled throughout and the topics of domestic abuse and teen sexuality make Sam and Elvis inappropriate for younger teens. But the powerful message of familial bonds and respect for life shine forward making Sam and Elvis a definitely should-see film.

* AND IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THIS MOVIE PLEASE CHECK OUT UNPLANNED – THE STORY OF ABBY JOHNSON, THE FORMER ABORTION ACTIVIST AND DIRECTOR OF THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD FACILITY IN BRYAN, TEXAS, WHO CONVERTED TO THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT IN ONE EPIPHANAL MOMENT.

THE JUDGE – DUVALL AND DOWNEY, JR EXCHANGE HEROICALLY TOUGH LOVE AS FATHER AND SON

 

The Judge 1 by filmenow.com The Judge 2 by screenrant.com

Robert Downey, Jr. (Hank Palmer) contends with Robert Duvall (Joseph Palmer) in a head to head son-father contest in  The Judge. The story revolves around the contentious relationship between Downey's and Duvall’s characters. Hank is a very successful high priced criminal lawyer. Joseph is a renowned small town tough judge. At opening, Joseph Palmer – the Judge – has just suddenly lost his wife to a stroke and Hank comes in for the funeral. The reunion with these two is anything but cordial and the tension between them could have plucked out the high note in Mozart's Queen of the Night aria. Hank makes a hasty post-funeral retreat. But before Hank's plane has left the runway he gets a panicked call from his brother. Joseph has just killed a man with his car. Accident or vengeance? Hank becomes his father’s attorney and it’s not a pretty situation. BUT – the movie is filled with heart, humor and humanity.

I won’t give away any more than I have to but there is a brilliantly written moment in the film I must mention for this piece. During a hurricane quality storm – poetically sympathetic – Hank and Joseph STORM (and I DO intend this quite apt pun) out of the shelter and into the family kitchen to have it out verbally during the height of the maelstrom. During this auditory altercation we find out that Joseph sent Hank to reform school. Downey’s youthful history included drinking, drugs, and almost killing his brother in a car crash. The script (thanks to Quotes from us.imdb.com) speaks for itself (though I have taken the liberty of asterisking the rather colorful adjectives and invectives):untitled

Judge Joseph Palmer: Is that all you wanted, Henry, was a kind word? An 'atta boy? Then to use your words, you should have come the ***** home! We all waited, quietly, but you never came. Okay? And I was the one she'd <the mom> blame, because you wouldn't come home. Me. Now, was I tough on you? Yes. How'd you turn out, Henry? Waiting tables? A bum?

Hank Palmer: You put me in Juvenile Detention… you sent me to ******* Vanderburgh!

Judge Joseph Palmer: [Interrupting] No, no, no, no, no, you put yourself there.

Hank Palmer: Did I?

Judge Joseph Palmer: Yes.

Hank Palmer: The prosecutor recommended community service. That was your call!

Judge Joseph Palmer: No, no, no, it wouldn't have helped you!

Hank Palmer: I didn't need help, I needed you!

Judge Joseph Palmer: You were high, you rolled a car with your brother in it! He had a major league career ahead of him, a 90 mile-an-hour fast ball, and he runs a turnip shop! You crippled him, you stole his future, and you call me an *****?

Hank Palmer: What do you want from me? I was 17 when that happened. I was 17.

Judge Joseph Palmer: Oooh, "I was 13, I was 17." You were headed down the wrong path! I did what I thought was right.

Hank Palmer: [Holding back tears] You know, I didn't just graduate from law school, I graduated first in my class… I was first in my class… I did really well, dad.

Judge Joseph Palmer: You're welcome.

Hank "blames" his father for sending him to reform school as a youth. Instead  Joseph – the Dad – KNOWS that when Hank was a youth that he, as Hank's father, had to make that hard choice and apply some extremely tough love. Even as an adult Hank didn’t understand. What they did not bring up in the conversation was that Hank was now also a father, so this lesson is a difficult one to face. What Joseph did was absolutely critical to Hank. But it was also something your average mom is just not hard wired to do. I doubt my own ability to have the fortitude to do this and I have personally witnessed mothers who were similarly not equipped to make that kind of terrible, terrible but essential decision. That is what a good father does. He is the bad guy who must make the gut wrenching RIGHT decisions for which everyone will blame him later, but from which he can only pray his child will learn.

Duvall Duvall shake hands by standard.co.uk

Next Up – The Blacklist – Even Girl Scouts Get Lost Without a Moral Compass

Photo credits in order: filmenow.com, screenrant.com, nytimes.com, standard.co.uk