Reviewed at L.A. Independent Film Festival, April 17, 2000. Running time: 107 MIN.
With: Karen Black, Dan Montgomery, Aleksa Palladino, Walton Goggins.
Pregnant with possibility, “Red Dirt” never quite delivers. Tyro helmer Tag Purvis’ story finds a rural Mississippi family struggling with hidden passions and dark secrets. Arresting images and lush atmosphere fail to offset the fact that Purvis’ dialogue, as read by his actors, is stilted and as suffocating as a sun-baked southern afternoon, which seriously strains credibility. Direction never raises scenes beyond the level of acting-class exercises. Commercial prospects are dim.
Cousins Griffith (Dan Montgomery) and Emily (Aleksa Palladino) are secretly lovers, though the restless Griffith dreams of bigger things than his stagnant life in Pine Apple. But his obligation to care for his agoraphobic, psychically damaged Aunt Summer (Karen Black), keeps him rooted. When a handsome, mysterious drifter (Walton Goggins) arrives one day to rent a family cottage, Griffith finds himself inexplicably drawn to the outsider. It’s fascinating to watch the sexual tension build between the two men, but there’s no payoff to the homoerotic subtext, leaving the viewer feeling rooked by a story that neither reveals character nor goes anywhere. Still, pic looks so rich and impressively mounted that it’s a shame there’s not more to it.