Fox // 2009 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // January 24th, 2011
Who's your daddy?
With only a brief run in theaters, Like Dandelion Dust garnered over a dozen film festival awards. It's the good parents versus the bad in this indie drama, which starts off with an original premise, but takes some unfortunate plot turns as the film goes on.
Recovering alcoholic Rip Porter (Barry Pepper, Firestorm) is released from prison after abusing his wife Wendy (Mira Sorvino, The Replacement Killers) seven years prior. Wendy informs Rip that after his incarceration, she gave birth to their son Joey, who she then gave up for adoption. This is a complete surprise to Rip, considering he never signed the papers giving up his son. Rip, bent on bringing the child back into his life, begins proceedings to remove Joey from his adoptive parents (Cole Hauser, Pitch Black; Kate Levering, Drop Dead Diva).
With stellar performances by all involved, Like Dandelion Dust is ripe with enough emotion to be a Saturday night feature on the Lifetime Network, Oxygen, or possibly the Oprah channel. Viewers who frequent any of these stations will undoubtedly love this film and the included extras (more on those later). The setup is familiar, with the affluent family contrasted with the couple from the wrong side of the tracks. The Campbells live a very comfortable lifestyle, with an enormous house on the beach and frequent excursions on their ivory sailboat. We are never told what Jack Campbell does for a living, but he ain't hurtin' for cash. Then we have Rip and Wendy Porter, who, on the other hand, lead a more troubled life. Rip has some anger issues and is lucky to have his job in a factory, where he makes barely enough to support his wife in their dilapidated home.
I really enjoyed Like Dandelion Dust, right up until the one hour mark. The actors were spot on, the story was compelling, and everything was adding up to a solid drama. After about seventy minutes, the film that I was completely onboard with went somewhat south, with the adoptive parents suddenly making choices that went against any logical way of thinking. The father, who only weeks before was offering two million dollars to Rip, was now making decisions that no rational person would consider, especially someone with his wealth. I know the point was to show the lengths at which parents will go to keep their child, but I had no problem with the way that had been established already.
Another turn in the screenplay that I found to be disappointing was when Rip fell off the wagon and began drinking again. The story would have proved more interesting had Rip stayed on the straight and narrow, proving himself a worthy candidate for parenthood. Instead, we are not-so-subtly nudged to side with the "good" parents, instead of being torn as a viewer between two sets of good parents. That choice took any question out of the story as to who might get the kiddo in the end. I certainly don't want to give anything away, but again, this IS primo Lifetime material we're watching.
One aspect of the film that I particularly loved was the music, composed and performed by Nathan Larson. Being a long time fan of the group A Camp, I was more than pleased (and quite surprised) to see Larson's name at the end of the credits. The soundtrack consisted of synth pads and reverby, Knopfler-esque guitar work, perfectly complimenting the dramatic tone of the film. After looking up Nathan on IMDb, I see that his soundtrack work has consisted of nearly fifty films, and it shows.
As for the quality of the DVD, we received a screener copy, so the picture was notably sub-par. This will very likely be enhanced for future release. Still, the disc seemed to have the extras that will be present on the final disc. Included is a full length audio commentary by the director, writer and producer; a featurette called "Like Dandelion Dust Comes to Life;" and numerous deleted and extended scenes with optional director commentary. Like Dandelion Dust is a film extremely close to the filmmakers' hearts and also included are two featurettes concerning adoption stories by author Karen Kingsbury and producer Kevin Downes. It felt somewhat strange to me that these were included on the disc, since the film itself didn't have an opinion for or against adoption, but as I've said before, any extras are welcome extras. Anyone who loved the film will enjoy these interviews as well.
Like Dandelion Dust is a good film that could have been great had the characters remained rational throughout. The premise of the film was extremely strong and with some different story choices, the struggle between the two sets of parents would have been more satisfying. Still, the performances were solid and the soundtrack was a very nice surprise.
Not guilty, but only by a fraction of a margin. There is an audience that will eat this film up.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes