Most independent movies model themselves on a Sundance-approved template: the rural miserablist parable, the heal-thyselves family tragedy, the gritty crime flick. Hunter Hill and Perry Moore’s drama, however, shoots for the moon; the directors have seemingly crammed the festival’s annual lineup into 92 minutes. For those viewers who don’t have two weeks to spare in Park City, the mix-and-match sensibility might seem like a valuable time-saver. Anyone who wants a little quality with their quantity, however, will curse the fact that an hour and a half of their lives is gone for good.
It isn’t just that Lake City gives us a long-suffering Virginian mother (Spacek), makes her adult son (Garity) a recovering alcoholic pursued by a gangster (Matthews) and saddles them both with a precocious prepubescent (Ford). You can chalk up the overplaying to the insecurity of the filmmakers, who figure a scattershot approach means that something—needless violence, tearful confessions, poor Drea de Matteo’s pantomime drug-addict cameo—is bound to hit. What’s really galling is that, for an actor-driven movie, the performances are DOA: Troy Garity’s pedigree (he’s Jane Fonda’s son) doesn’t prevent him from employing a monotonous tone, and musician Dave Matthews should stick to flinging dung out of tour buses instead of on the screen. The real shame is the waste of Spacek. She’s an American treasure who doesn’t work nearly enough; to see this star make a rare appearance, only to wither among such emotional cheap shots, is the one thing in Lake City that will genuinely make you weep.