This movie sets up an explosive and compelling situation. It then completely wimps out by refusing to take a stand on any of the moral and ethical questions it raises and then stumbles into an ending that makes you wonder if writer/director Chris Eigeman ever knew what he was doing.
Kailey (Famke Janssen) is a haggard, working class pool hustler who's always looking for a game. The only thing that matters to her as much as pool is her son, Gully (Jaymie Dornan). He lives in New York City with his dad David (Matt Ross) and his stepmom. Most of Gully's contact with Kayley is the letters they exchange through a pool hall owner named Quinette (Rip Torn), but now she's back in town with a half-formed plan. She wants to take Gully and run to Canada, making a new life for them both. To do it, Kailey needs to get $60,000 dollars for phony passports. That's hard to do hustling pool for a $100 dollars a rack. Quinette comes up with a plan that might get Kailey the money, but it's not at all clear that Gully will really be better off with his mom, even though there's something not right at home with his dad.
Turn the River could have been a very powerful story. A woman separated from his only child. A father insecure and resentful of his own son. A man and a woman whose lives are defined by terrible mistakes they made years ago. Kailey, who lives moment to moment by the skin of her teeth, fantasizing that she can take care of a young boy. David, seething under the disapproving glare of his own mother. What it's like to be a woman in the world of pool hustlers. There's a lot here to work with. This film falters, though, because it refuses to make up its mind on the most basic elements of its story.
Is Kailey acting selfishly or does she truly have Gully's best interests at heart? The movie never says, and I don't mean it's ambiguous on the matter. I mean sometimes it clearly portrays Kylie as being motivated by what she wants, while other times she's clearly set up a noble mother trying to protect her son and there's never any effort to reconcile those differing aspects. The film very deliberately sets up David as the bad guy, then it throws in a scene where he's suddenly a good guy who cares about Gully. David's mom is on one hand put forth as the source of all of David and Kayley's troubles, yet she's also the only one of the three who seems to have her head screwed on straight. The movie never commits to saying this character is good and that one is bad, this person is right and that one's wrong. But instead of creating shades of gray, the story flounders around in mush.
Turn the River is a good example that sometimes an actress can be too beautiful for her own good. Famke Janssen plays a character who's ratty and grimy and worn down. The film does just about everything it can to make her look grubby and plain. The problem is you could peel off most of Famke Janssen's skin and she'd still be pretty sexy. Kailey is supposed to be a woman who's lived her life on the wrong side of the tracks, but she looks like a model who got hit on the head, developed amnesia and started hanging around in pool halls.
And then there's the ending, where I don't have the faintest idea what writer/director Eigeman is trying to do. Now, I'm not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, so it's possible I'm just not getting it. But the conclusion to Kailey and Gully's run for the border doesn't appear to have anything to do with anything that came before it. It's as though when Eigeman got to the end of his screenplay, he just flipped a coin on whether it would have a happy or sad ending. Then the coin came up heads when it should have been tails.
Janssen and the rest of the cast do fine work and the movie looks okay, but the story is never strong or certain enough for you to notice or care.
Turn the River is a film about pool that gets its title from the world of poker. That kind of encapsulates the mixed up nature of this movie.
Turn the River
Action / Drama
Turn the River
Action / Drama
In New York City, Gulley, who's in middle school, lives with his father and step-mother; his paternal grandmother dominates the family's life. In secret, he's recently been in touch with his mother, Kailey, a pool hustler, who wants to win big and take Gulley to Canada. With the help of Teddy Quinette, who runs Quinn's Pool Hall, Kailey may get her shot at big money. Can she win the match, keep her son's confidence, and, using fake documents she gets from Markus, a friend of hers, make it to Canada to start a new life?
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March 15, 2016 at 09:06 PM