Showtime’s “My Louisiana Sky” avoids reality with nonchalance, which makes it both tolerably unsentimental and completely fake. Project follows a young girl growing up in the pre-civil rights South with mentally disabled parents, but in typical telepic fashion, the disabilities are presented in a wholly fabricated, saccharine light.
Executed with a sweet, easy touch by director Adam Arkin and a strong cast, original story follows 12-year-old Tiger (Kelsey Keel), who lives in Louisiana with her developmentally challenged mom and dad in a household headed by her grandmother Jewel (Shirley Knight).
Mother Corinna (Amelia Campbell) has a perennial smile on her face and doesn’t seem to need that much caring for — she becomes obsessed with the television that’s a gift from her urbanized sister Dorie Kay (Juliette Lewis), but if that’s a symptom of mental slowness, then we’re all in trouble.
Father Lonnie (Chris Owens) is supposedly “simple,” and is called an “idiot” at one point, but seems to suffer from nothing more than dyslexia and stuttering. He holds down a job with significant responsibility, listens to the land with the powers of a savant and has plenty of words of wisdom for his beloved daughter.
When Jewel dies suddenly, Dorie Kay takes Tiger for a visit to Baton Rouge and invites the girl to stay with her permanently. This choice subtly drives the remainder of the pic, as Tiger returns home to discover the pleasures of her rural life and to learn to appreciate what her folks have to offer.
The film benefits from straightforward execution, unencumbered in the writing, photography or performances by anything too complex. For a film that glorifies the simple life, that gently criticizes the sophisticated, it has the right style.
But while its heart is unquestionably in the right place, “My Louisiana Sky” is ultimately so superficial, with a moral sense so predictable and yet so unbelievable, that the film is almost condescending.
On a positive note, Keel is a likable newcomer with a slightly offbeat look and the right mix of sass and sensitivity.