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Boundaries (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 8, 2020



Starring Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Bobby Cannavale, Kristen Schaal, Dolly Wells, Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Fonda, Diana Bang, Glenn Beck, Elizabeth Bowen, Lisa Bunting, Rohan Campbell, Sharon Crandall, Genevieve Desjardins, BJ Harrison, Emily Holmes, Billy Hopeless, Chelah Horsdal and James Kirk.

Screenplay by Shana Feste.

Directed by Shana Feste.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 104 minutes. Rated R.

There is a reason why the road trip movie has become such a staple in cinema. Take some slightly antagonistic people, stick them in a small vehicle, set them on the highway, shake well and see what falls out.

Boundaries adds some dogs to the formula, which can only make things even better.

The highly autobiographical movie by writer/director Shana Feste (The Greatest, Endless Love, Country Strong) about her dysfunctional relationship with her father is obviously a labor of love for all involved. While it may not change anyone’s lives, it is sweet, charming and pleasant company.

Of course, when you have Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer playing daughter and dad, the acting power alone makes Boundaries worth seeing. Plus, there is a good-natured cameo by Peter Fonda, star of what is one of the classic road movies ever, Easy Rider. And Kristen Schaal is her lovably offbeat self as the surprisingly-wise little sister.

Truthfully, the film is not quite as good as its smart and diverse cast deserve, but it is fun in its own ways.

Farmiga and Plummer have great chemistry as the lead characters. Laura (Farmiga) is a neurotic woman who showers her love on stray animals and her artistic and misunderstood son Henry (MacDougall). She is somewhat estranged from her charming but ne’er-do-well pot-dealing father Jack (Plummer).

As the story starts, Laura is in need of money to send Henry to a special art school, where his slightly eccentric worldview will be understood and nurtured. At the same time, Jack is thrown out of the latest of a series of old-age homes. Jack tells Laura he will pay for the school, if she will drive them down the coast to stay with his kooky younger daughter JoJo.

Laura does not want to spend the time off of work – though she hates her job – and away from her strays. However, she is desperate to get Henry into the special school, so she agrees to drive Jack to LA (from Seattle) in Jack’s vintage Rolls-Royce. What she doesn’t know is that Jack has the last of his weed in the trunk, and often makes stops to see “old friends” to sell off the last of his stash to make the money.

These friends include Laura’s ex – and Henry’s dad – played with typical oiliness by Bobby Cannavale. They also visit a monk (Christopher Lloyd) and a big-time movie exec (Peter Fonda).

As is the norm in this kind of film, the extended time together leads to arguments amongst the leads, but also leads to understanding. Henry finally gets to know the grandpa he never really spent much time with, and even Jack and Laura come to a shaky truce. And it turns out that the oddball sister in LA may be the most perceptive person in the family.

Boundaries is worth seeing if for no other reason because it has another stellar performance in Plummer’s late-in-his-career winning streak. (He was rightfully nominated for an Oscar for his last performance in All the Money in the World and won an Oscar for the similarly quirky dramedy Beginners a few years back.)

Luckily, most of the acting around them is just as good – particularly Farmiga and Schaal in a small-but-vital role.

And did I mention there were lots of cute dogs – and a few cats, too? Sounds like a party to me.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 20, 2018.

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