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Overall Rating

Awesome: 28.81%
Worth A Look: 25.42%
Just Average30.51%
Pretty Crappy: 11.86%
Sucks: 3.39%

7 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Off the Map
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by Jason Whyte

"A unique little movie with some great acting...and not where you expect it."
5 stars

It sounds corny, but I like it when a movie finds its way to me rather than going out of my way to see it. A while ago I received a copy of “Off The Map” and didn’t think much about watching it anytime soon, that is until I had a free Sunday and elected to pop it on in the middle of a hot day. After watching the movie, I had a bit of regret that I hadn’t come to it sooner. Here is a deep, thought-provoking film about family in the middle of Nowhere, New Mexico in the 1970’s that contains one of the year’s best performances…and even more surprising that it isn’t Joan Allen who plays the lead here.

It’s 1974, and the Grodin family have moved to a house outside of Taos, New Mexico. Charley (Sam Elliot) is a disgruntled Vietnam vet who has brought his wife Arlene (Allen) and daughter Bo (Valentina de Angelis) to a house in the middle of the desert with no electricity or water. Which is not to say that they completely rid themselves of society; an early moment in the movie shows Charley and Arlene letting Bo go and browse in a K-Mart before heading home.

Life at the Grodin residence moves along until William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost) comes along to investigate the family, but comes down with an illness and eventually stays with the Grodin’s long enough for William to become fascinated with the family which is such a far cry from his home city life.

The acting is as solid as you would come to expect from Joan Allen and Sam Elliot. Allen, with no makeup and some of the longest hair I’ve ever seen, completely disappears into her character and you forget that her work in the recent The Upside of Anger is also one of the year’s best performances. Elliot takes a while to get used to with his completely silent demeanour, but he shines especially in the later sequences where he objects to his forced medication. JK Simmons, famous for playing J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies, is much dialled down as the quiet and reserved George, a friend of Charley who is just as quiet. And Jim True (yeah, the guy with the “Twenty numbers” watch in Cameron Crowe’s Singles) rounds out the cast as William Gibbs.

The star of the film is young Valentina De Angelis, whose Bo Grodin is a child performance that ranks with Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon, Jenna Boyd in The Missing and Junior Singo in Beat The Drum among the best child performances I’ve seen.. In a day and age of Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff’s fighting for screen time, here we have a REAL child playing a REAL child character.

This is the kind of performance that you don’t expect; with a movie starring Joan Allen and Sam Elliot, how can a kid possibly get any attention? Somehow, Ms. De Angelis’ performance breaks through all of that and she creates a completely original and fascinating character in Bo (and, thankfully, doesn’t steal away thunder from Allen or Elliot, either). De Angelis’ quirks, worldly comments, quiet observation and relationship to her family and friends are fascinating to watch. Her dialogue would be “wise beyond her years” in a sappier movie, but I really have met young kids whose vocabulary outshines the number of their age, and De Angelis gets this down perfectly.

The film’s director is Campbell Scott, who I remember as an actor from Singles and Roger Dodger but here has a complete focus of vision. He designs his frame to really place us in the middle of the New Mexico flats, and what’s wonderful is that the Grodin house really feels like a house that is lived in, with its small rooms to Bo’s bedroom over the kitchen. “New Mexico is a powerful place,” Charley says at one point, and from the viewpoint of this place, we really do believe it. Scott also really hits some interesting notes with the visual touches, including the arrival of a boat that Bo orders that surprisingly reminded me of the famous shot in “Lawrence of Arabia” where a boat appears to be floating behind a wall of sand.

This isn’t a simple story of a hippie family who escape to the country and an IRS agent that investigates them, but rather a study on country living by a family who wants solace and peace in a world that won’t allow it…and still be able to let their daughter wander in K-Mart from time to time. While the film has some rough moments in its dialogue (The film is based on Joan Ackerman’s play) that almost sounds like it would be more at home in “Gilmore Girls”, it is a minor flaw from a film that is wise, beautiful and strange all at once.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6817&reviewer=350
originally posted: 11/04/05 02:37:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Deep Focus Film Fest For more in the 2005 Deep Focus Film Fest series, click here.

User Comments

12/13/17 Tom B An incredulous and downright annoying waste of time. 1 stars
8/29/13 Tammy Woodall Different, but real. Great acting. 4 stars
6/23/10 Tina Corry Have seen it three times and want to see it again! 5 stars
8/03/06 mike norwood a truly unique film............worth buying and watching again and again 5 stars
6/19/06 keri ross awe inspiring. i immediately went back to the vid store and asked if i could buy it. i did. 5 stars
12/10/05 Brian Excellent 5 stars
12/01/05 George A wonderful film,great acting - see it, its worth it 5 stars
4/14/05 Frank Holmes A wonderfully-engaging filme 4 stars
3/26/05 C. Donovan Awakened the "Tahiti Syndrome" in me! 5 stars
10/31/04 Jim Walker one of the most loving films i've ever seen 5 stars
10/09/04 J.J.Grodon the Puppeter very intriguing and moved me to read the screenplay 4 stars
10/20/03 shannon loved it! don't miss this one. a must see. 5 stars
10/13/03 Michael Barrett Intensely Besutiful, can't wait to see it again!! 5 stars
1/30/03 joe smith it sucks 1 stars
1/27/03 Tom Principe I saw it at Sundance....all I can say is it was the best I've seen, including the majors. 5 stars
1/26/03 M. Boyle The Actual Star of Sundance 2003 5 stars
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  11-Mar-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Aug-2005



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