"Another Harvest Moon" will need canny grassroots marketing to connect with its target demo of older ticketbuyers during limited theatrical rollout.

Enjoyable primarily as a well-crafted showcase for vivid performances by veteran thesps, “Another Harvest Moon” will need canny grassroots marketing to connect with its target demo of older ticketbuyers during limited theatrical rollout. This low-key indie drama likely will resonate best with over-50 auds and their parents, but it could just as easily engage younger viewers when it fast-forwards to homevid and cable.

Ernest Borgnine dominates the pic with his affecting performance as Frank, a retirement-home resident who’s mentally robust enough to realize his memory is failing. Worse, he’s having a rough time fully recovering from a debilitating stroke. Fearing his physical and mental deterioration soon will accelerate, he considers using a souvenir from his WWII days — a loaded pistol he keeps hidden in his room — to check out on his own terms.

Even as he contemplates suicide, however, he continues to jovially interact with three other retirees in the facility: the ever-chipper Alice (Doris Roberts), chronically caustic Ella (Anne Meara) and dementia-plagued June (Piper Laurie).

Frank also welcomes visits from his admiring grandson (Cameron Monaghan), and patiently endures the attentiveness of his anxious daughter (Cybill Shepherd). But he remains noticeably wary, albeit amiable, when dealing with his son, Jeffrey (Richard Schiff), who appears eager to resolve long-standing differences, mindful that each meeting with his fading father may be his last.

Scriptwriter Jeremy T. Black adapted “Another Harvest Moon” from his own stage play, and helmer Greg W. Swartz does relatively little to disguise the material’s theatrical roots, other than to intrusively underscore key scenes with over-emphatic music. On the other hand, Swartz does a fine job negotiating the interplay among the venerable pros in his ensemble cast, allowing Roberts, Laurie, Meara and especially Borgnine, arguably the hardest-working nonagenarian in showbiz today, to all offer impressively full-bodied and affectation-free portrayals of well-drawn characters.

Shepherd is conspicuously short-changed by the script, but Schiff manages to subtly convey memories of past disputes as well as fears of impending tragedy as Jeffrey deals with intimations of Frank’s mortality. Indeed, while the father-son relationship is not always front and center in “Another Harvest Moon,” that element of the drama most assuredly will have the greatest impact on any viewer who is dealing, or has dealt, with the decline of a once-vigorous parent.

Tech values are solid.

Another Harvest Moon

Production

An Aurora Films production in association with SMD Entertainment Prods. and Ostrow and Co. Produced by Bobby Black, Chad Taylor, Jason Weiss. Executive producer, Steven M. Delamater. Co-executive producers, John Slovak, Brad Kenyon. Co-producer, Rodney Holland Directed by Greg W. Swartz. Screenplay, Jeremy T. Black, based on his play.

Crew

Camera (color), Jeffrey A. Cunningham; editor, Darren Iovino; music, Ricardo Garcia, William V. Malpede; production designer, Carl Sprague; set decorator, Jennifer Engel; costume designer, Amy Brownson; sound (Dolby Digital), Richard "Tricky" Kitting; associate producers, Jeremy T. Black, John Breinholt, Page Ostrow; assistant director, Josh Cohen; casting, Bonnie Gillespie. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, May 29, 2011. (In WorldFest-Houston Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Ernest Borgnine, Piper Laurie, Anne Meara, Doris Roberts, Richard Schiff, Cybill Shepherd, Sunkrish Bala, Cameron Monaghan.

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