Set mainly in and around a lakeside establishment called the Blue Water Grill in Texas, this is a small film, but within its own terms a delightful and virtually perfect one. The characters–the dreamy grill owner (Gene Hackman), who compulsively watches home movies of his long-vanished wife; his grumpy yet serene father-in-law (Burgess Meredith); a slightly retarded handyman (Elias Kotias); and a bus driver (Teri Garr) who has her sights set on the grill owner–all seem to come out of Erskine Caldwell and Tennessee Williams, but Bill Bozzone’s capable script, Peter Masterson’s deft direction, and Fred Murphy’s handsome photography all show them off to best advantage, and the movie’s playlike story moves effortlessly. Funny and appealing, this is the kind of quiet and assured Hollywood movie that used to be more common in the 50s; the local flavor is caught perfectly, and every member of the cast shines. (Deerbrook, Ridge, Golf Glen, McClurg Court, Oakbrook, Plaza)
An Australian memory piece written and directed by John Duigan, set in New South Wales in 1962. Danny (Noah Taylor), a teenager, has an obsessive crush on Freya (Loene Carmen), an older childhood friend, and when she starts to become romantically involved with Trevor (Ben Mendlesohn), his loyalty is put to the test. Although most of this is rather familiar stuff, even in a small-town Australian setting, the treatment is sufficiently sincere and nuanced to give it a touch of poignancy; the overall modesty and sweetness of the performances help. Note: This film sneaked in last week before we had a chance to recommend it, and will be gone after these last screenings. (Fine Arts, matinees, Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12)
A fascinating documentary by Ken Ausubel that starts off as provocative muckraking and winds up as an informative and thoughtful essay. The muckraking concerns former coal miner Harry Hoxsey and his virtually lifelong battle with the American Medical Association about his apparently effective folk remedies for cancer. The AMA and the U.S. government essentially outlawed Hoxsey’s practice in the U.S., but his remedies are still used today in a clinic in Tijuana. The essay, more historical in nature, concerns the ongoing battle between the “established” medical profession as we know it today and the alternative practices of folk medicine. Along the way are some fascinating glimpses into the profitable aspects for doctors of conventional cancer treatment and the ambiguities about Hoxsey’s controversial and still scientifically untested methods (Hoxsey himself ultimately died of cancer). (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12, 8:00; Sunday, November 13, 1:00, 2:30, and 4:00; and Monday through Thursday, November 14 through 17, 6:00 and 8:00; 281-8788).