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Around the Bend (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Around the Bend

Around the Bend


Starring Josh Lucas, Christopher Walken, Michael Caine, Jonah Bobo, Glenne Headley, Kathryn Hahn, David Eigenberg, Robert Douglas, Carlos Cabarcas, Gerry Bamman, Jean Effron, Lily Knight, Rick Negron, David Marciano, Norbert Weisser, Laurie O’Brien and Michael O’Neill.

Screenplay by Jordan Roberts.

Directed by Jordan Roberts.

Distributed by Warner Independent Pictures.  85 minutes.  Rated R.

Sometimes, a movie doesn’t have to make big noisy motions to capture an audience’s imagination.  Sometimes it is enough to look closely at interesting, eccentric, passionate people living their lives the best that they can.

Around the Bend is a movie like this.  It is a movie about family.  Four generations of a family, in fact.  Henry Lair (Michael Caine) is an elderly former archeologist who knows he is close to dying.  He lives in a crowded LA apartment with his grandson Jason (Josh Lucas), his great-grandson Zack (Jonah Bobo) and a nurse (Glenne Headly).

Their life is thrown upside down with the sudden reappearance of Hunter; Henry’s son, Jason’s father and the grandfather Zack has never met.  Hunter is a small time musician and part-time criminal who has spent much of his past either stoned or in jail.  He has finally become sober and agrees to see Henry one last time before he dies.

Henry decides that this is the perfect time for the family to get out the old VW van and take one last trip.  Four generations of a family can get to know each other and maybe forgive for past wrongs.

However, Hunter is not one who believes strongly in revisiting the past.  He plans to leave on a bus the next day to likely never return again.

Jason, who is unhappy with his job as a banker and in the middle of breaking up with his wife (Kathryn Hahn), also seems to have no real interest in reconciling with the man who left him as a child.

So, Henry goes to extreme measures to get the men of his family to take one last trip.

Thus begins a three-state tour of cheap motels, Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, family milestones and long buried resentments.  Hunter and Jason are both less than enthusiastic to be on this journey and quickly past angers start to make them chafe upon each other.  For young Zack, though, the adventure allows him to finally understand more about where he comes from.

As they go through a scavenger hunt of their past lives constructed by Henry, Hunter and Jason slowly start to thaw towards each other.  Though both are a little guarded with the secrets of the past, more and more we learn how this family became so broken.

The film explores all this with surprising humor, quirky plot points and well-earned drama.  Instead of taking a potentially dark look at the old cliché — you can pick your friends but not your family — Around the Bend instead recognizes the ties that bind even the most damaged families.  (9/04)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2004 All rights reserved. Posted: September 9, 2004.

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