×

Exodus Fall

This 1970s period piece is nicely crafted and sweetly engaging overall, despite some stilted dialogue and crudely melodramatic elements.

With:
With: Jesse James, Rosanna Arquette, Devon Graye, Dee Wallace, Christopher Atkins, Adrien Finkel, Alexander Carroll, Leo Rossi, Duane Whitaker.

The first feature from co-helmers Ankush Kohli and Chad Waterhouse, “Exodus Fall” is a family drama about a family in flight from itself, as three teens flee cross-country from their horrible mother after their dad’s death. This 1970s period piece is nicely crafted and sweetly engaging overall, despite some stilted dialogue and crudely melodramatic elements. Opening April 8 in a handful of U.S. markets, it’s unlikely to make a major impression theatrically, but should achieve some traction in home formats thanks to pic’s cast names and wholesome appeal.

Well, not entirely wholesome: “Exodus” flouts the No. 1 rule of movies and parents — never, ever pick up scruffy hitchhikers — with no ill consequences, and features a mom who spits “You’re a son of a bitch” at her eldest, only to be answered, “I am a son of a bitch, that’s about right.” Somewhat awkwardly structured script begins with a framing device in which three siblings — protective Kenneth (Jesse James), bookish Charlotte (Adrien Finkel) and excessively adorable Dana (Devon Graye) — get flat-tire help from charismatic hippie hitchhiker Travis (Alexander Carroll). Around the campfire that night, Kenneth initiates a lengthy flashback by telling their new companion just what these siblings are running from.

That would be Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette), their mother, although “mutha” might be more apt. A shrew during her marriage to injury-sidelined baseball player-turned-farmer Wayne (Christopher Atkins), she only gets worse after his death from a heart attack. Afraid to be alone, she nonetheless abuses her children and is sketched as a drunken slut to boot (at one point, she wears a flame-red dress so we’ll better grasp what a sinner she is). Arquette is capable of fine acting, but this cartoonish role doesn’t ask for subtlety and she doesn’t provide any.

When Marilyn’s meanness extends to committing her “special” middle child to a sanitarium, protective Kenny and bookish sis Charlotte (Adrien Finkel) hatch a plan to rescue Dana (Devon Graye) — the kind of movie character whose clinical diagnosis might be excessive adorability. They commandeer an old car, purloin some of Mom’s cash, and off to their benevolent grandmother’s house they go.

At the halfway point, pic catches up to the present with the poetically inclined Travis now riding along, en route to a “special delivery” we eventually learn has to do with his recently ended military service in Vietnam. The quartet travel north from Texas to Oregon, seemingly hitting half the spectacular parklands between (not excluding the Grand Canyon). Much is made of underage Kenny’s driving inexperience and Charlotte’s first period, although frankly, the thesps seem too old for those conceits.

Waterhouse’s episodic script seldom comes up with imaginative or revealing incidents en route, and his dialogue sometimes suggests an aspiring undergraduate novelist run amuck. Still, it’s a pleasant trip in all, with slick packaging and some poignant moments compensating for various flaws. Thesping is solid enough, apart from shrill Arquette and Finkel, who gets an “introducing” credit here but lacks screen presence.

Popular on Variety

Exodus Fall

Production: An Oakhurst Pictures release of a Gorilla Pictures and Brainstorm Prods. presentation of a Kohli-Waterhouse production. Produced by Sudarshan Kohli, Ankush Kohli. Executive producers, Kumkum Kohli, Sameer Kohli. Directed by Ankush Kohli, Chad Waterhouse. Screenplay, Waterhouse.

Crew: Camera (color, Super 16), Denis Maloney; editor, Mitchel Stanley; music, Boris Zelkin, Deeji Mincey; production designer, Elizabeth Garner; art director, Erin Staub; set decorator, Alana Brown; costume designer, Kerrie Kordowski; sound, Amber Conroy; supervising sound editor, Greg Vossberg; re-recording mixer, Scott Bruzenak; assistant director, Amir Khan; casting, Gerald I. Wolff, Christine Joyce. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, April 2, 2011. (In WorldFest-Houston Film Festival -- opener.) MPAA Rating: Running time: 92 MIN.

With: With: Jesse James, Rosanna Arquette, Devon Graye, Dee Wallace, Christopher Atkins, Adrien Finkel, Alexander Carroll, Leo Rossi, Duane Whitaker.

More Film

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON– As Lumière Institute head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launch the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over then decade that then followed. This year, the festival 190 films in 424 screening spread out all over town. It will come to a close this coming Sunday, but [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content