Such predictable pap is generally better suited for romance novels or Lifetime movies.
In what feels like the filmed version of a historical reenactment, “The Lightkeepers” provides a wholesome excursion to Cape Cod circa 1912 in which two self-proclaimed “woman haters” hole up in a remote lighthouse grousing about their luck until the first two ladies to pass their way force them to reconsider their bachelorhood. Such predictable pap is generally better suited for romance novels or Lifetime movies. Here, it’s elevated somewhat by a decent cast and, per the filmmakers’ infinite optimism, given a one-week Oscar-qualifying run before its Palm Springs closing-night berth and March limited release. Earnings will be hard-pressed to cover the down payment on a Massachusetts mortgage.
Starring Richard Dreyfuss as Seth Atkins, an ornery old sailor grounded these eight years, the pic hinges on whether auds buy his outspoken anti-woman stance. In truth, as both the film’s title and his current profession suggest, Atkins has been keeping the flame alive for the wife he left some years earlier, and it’s only a matter of time before she re-enters the picture.
First he must contend with a young stranger who washes ashore on the picturesque property’s white-sand beach. The lad, who calls himself John Brown (played by Tom Wisdom, looking stiff and uncomfortable), earns the old curmudgeon’s trust through a series of clumsy vignettes, and before long, they’re bonding over their mutual distrust of women.
They doth protest too much, of course, their words serving merely to fuel the comedy of errors that follows when a young heiress, Ruth (Mamie Gummer), and her escort, Mrs. Bascom (Blythe Danner), move into a nearby cottage for the summer. Though the men vow to avoid these unwelcome outsiders, the grounds are too small for them to keep their word, and before long, they’re sneaking behind one another’s backs to spend time with the visitors.
Filmed at the Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown, Mass., the action occasionally ventures into the neighboring town, which is decked out in rustic detail and bustling with period-appropriate extras. And yet writer-director Daniel Adams’ too-flowery dialogue makes everything feel stagy — the language no doubt hails from his extensive research into the period (his previous film, “The Golden Boys,” tapped into a similar milieu), but calls nearly as much attention to itself as Pinar Toprak’s overexcited score.
That same awkwardness extends to details as mundane as poor blocking and an absence of business, which often leaves the cast looking uncertain about what to do with their hands. In one key scene, Adams props Danner against the mantle, her back to Dreyfuss as their characters attempt to untangle matters of the heart.
Dreyfuss hasn’t had this sort of opportunity to growl and cuss since Tom Stoppard’s bigscreen “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” while Gummer (looking more like mother Meryl Streep with every film) seems perfectly suited to the period. Bruce Dern is wasted in the pic’s misfired climax, which works out as one might expect amid a complete lack of suspense onscreen.