×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Battlecreek’

Director Alison Eastwood covers familiar territory with a first-rate cast headed by "It" star Bill Skarsgard.

Director:
Alison Eastwood
With:
Bill Skarsgard, Claire van der Boom, Paula Malcomson, Delroy Lindo, Toby Hemingway, Dana Powell.  
Release Date:
Nov 3, 2017

Rated R  1 hour 39 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1880415/

One of the more impressive qualities of “Battlecreek,” a slow-burn drama set in a sultry Mississippi town, is the way it upends audience expectations by taking a surprise detour or two while covering familiar ground. Throughout much of her sophomore feature (after 2007’s “Rails & Ties”), director Alison Eastwood does not transcend so much as artfully paper over the clichés and contrivances of a script, by Anthea Anka, that could easily be reconstituted as a stage play with only minor tweaking. But give Anka this much: When push comes to shove, she makes the resolution of her scenario all the more dramatically and emotionally satisfying by revealing that, in at least two cases, what appeared to be set-ups were in fact fake-outs.

It also helps that the movie is anchored by the sensitive and engaging performance of Bill Skarsgard (“It”) as Henry, a budding artist and chronic introvert who, because of a rare skin condition, must avoid any exposure to direct sunlight. As a child, Henry wandered outside his house one afternoon — and wound up with reddish scars on his neck and chest. Ever since, he has been, in the words of Robert Frost, his favorite poet, “one acquainted with the night.”

After the sun goes down in his hometown of Battlecreek, he has the same meal every night at his favorite diner, then goes to his job at a garage run by Arthur (Delroy Lindo, in typically great form), a longtime family friend who loves jazz a lot more than, well, running a garage. (The sole gas pump outside is permanently broken, for reasons never explained.) Near dawn, he returns to the house where he lives with Tallulah (a scenery-devouring Paula Malcomson), his possessive mom, a boozy slattern who’s given to reading palms and consulting tarot cards when she isn’t entertaining gentlemen callers.

Henry’s routine is interrupted only when Alison (Claire van der Boom), a young woman obviously on the run from something or someone, develops car trouble while driving through Battlecreek. Arthur offers to fix her vehicle, but must order parts to complete the job. To pay for the repairs, Alison takes a waitressing job at the diner where Henry is a steady customer. All of which means, of course, that the purposefully enigmatic stranger is in the right place, for enough time, to warily develop a relationship with the quiet young man with the soulful eyes and the unsightly scars.

“Battlecreek” proceeds at a measured pace while Eastwood and Anka methodically introduce predictable plot elements: Loud-mouthed cretins harass Henry, Tallulah jealously disapproves of her son’s love interest, Alison’s past eventually catches up with her, and so on. But, as indicated earlier, a couple of these elements are tricked out with twists. Through sheer force of acting skill, Dana Powell infuses appealing vitality into a character — Melinda, a jolly plus-size waitress — that could have come across as a tiresome stereotype.

And even when the movie skirts perilously close to banality, Skarsgard and Van der Boom develop a winning chemistry to hold our interest as their characters slowly (and in Alison’s case, very reluctantly) warm to each other.

Taking a cue from her father, Clint Eastwood, Alison Eastwood enhances “Battlecreek” with some smart musical selections. (Of course, dad probably would have included more jazz, and might even have written it himself, but never mind.) In addition to the effective score credited to Kyle Eastwood, her brother, and Matt McGuire, the soundtrack includes several well-chosen previously recorded songs, most notably Brett Dennen’s scruffily romantic “Ain’t Gonna Lose You” and Amos Poe’s ineffably affecting “Windows Are Rolled Down.”

Film Review: 'Battlecreek'

Reviewed online, Houston, Nov. 2, 2017. (In Santa Barbara Film Festival.) Running time: 109 MIN.

Production: A Hanover House release and presentation of a Red River Studios, Maindiner Entertainment, Purple Road Prods. production. Producers: Constance L. Hoy, Alison Eastwood. Executive producers: Michael G. Wallace, Stephen Hintz, Rick Hill. Director: Alison Eastwood. Screenplay: Anthea Anka. Camera (color): Kristian Dane Lawing. Editor: Gary Roach. Music: Kyle Eastwood.

With: Bill Skarsgard, Claire van der Boom, Paula Malcomson, Delroy Lindo, Toby Hemingway, Dana Powell.  

More Film

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita' Inching Past 'Lego Movie 2' at Presidents Day Weekend Box Office

    James Cameron’s “Alita: Battle Angel” has a slight edge over “The Lego Movie 2” in a tight race for domestic box office supremacy during Presidents Day weekend. Both are aiming for about $27 million, early estimates showed on Friday. More Reviews Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink' Film Review: 'Great Bear Rainforest' [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content