SCREENED AT THE 2005 AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL: Winter Passing is an impressive debut film from writer/director Adam Rapp and an oustanding "coming out" for star Zooey Deschanel.Play actress Reese Holden (Deschanel) is all but dead, meandering through the city like a pale, drug addicted ghost. When a publisher begs her to give up letters shared between her famous writer parents, Reese is summoned back to her hometown to find them. She discovers her recluse father (Ed Harris) has moved into the garage, her house taken over by his former student Shelly (Amelia Warner) and the goofy, wannabe rocker Corbit (Will Ferrell -- you thought you'd finally get a dramatic performance out of him, didn't you? Well, not just yet!), the self-appointed "gatekeeper" of the premises who asks Reese for her driver's license upon entering.
Reese is clearly pissed about her upbringing and Shelly's curiosity with her genius artist parents and subsequent relationship with her father (she's younger than Reese) -- Reese would probably label her parents as nothing more than pretentious hacks.
She clings onto the quirky, simpleminded Corbit and struggles to supress her anger toward her aging, stumbling, depressed, alcoholic father whose writing, according to Shelly, now comes as easily as "pulling a piano out of a pond."
Winter Passing is decidedely low-key and sleepy, the "let's mend the family" story very much upstaged by the moody atmosphere and the terrific actors.
Harris is almost unrecognizable at a first glance and Deschanel does what she does best, giving a beautifully subtle, though telling performance. Ferrell is quite good as a strangely oversensitive man who can't sing and play the guitar, at the same time, when in public -- and I immediately started giggling when his character came on the screen.
But his comedic contribution is really all the relief you'll get from a generally slow-paced drama which seems to have almost all its emotions bottled up. Still, the story never fades into the snowy background.Winter Passing is a carefully crafted, great looking film -- it may not get too overexcited, but if it did, it'd just be too easy to pigeonhole as a "girl goes home to reconcile with family and find herself" plot. And luckily, it never fully commits to that and instead relies more on its quietly stated themes and characters.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.