Judge Daryl Loomis's school was never this tolerant.
I don't know how young writer/director/star Jerome Elston Scott was able to get this level and quantity of talent for Anderson's Cross, his debut feature, but for a guy who seems to make a living playing a stoner on television, there are some decent names. Having them around is a clear asset; these strong performances turn an otherwise average coming-of-age film into a sweet and charming story about love and family.
Nick (Scott) is a high school senior with a strong family and a good network of friends, but things are starting to change. His best friends, Tracey (Heather Bergdahl) and Kevin (Nicholas Downs), have been a couple for years and they've developed a habit of having sex while Nick watches. It's a good arrangement; they all love each other, but when he finally meets Trevor (Micah Stuart), Nick starts to wonder whether he's been watching Tracy or Kevin. As the school year comes to a close, these kids find out more about themselves than they ever thought possible, leading to change, tragedy, and the affirmation that those around you really care.
Anderson's Cross is a solid film; not a great one, but a solid debut. What stands out to me most in this generally standard coming-of-age picture is the amorphous sexuality of the characters involved. It isn't a question of switching from straight to gay or being bisexual; the characters here don't quite understand who they are yet and are open to the possibilities that they come across. That this tends to lead purportedly straight characters into homosexual relationships tells the attitude of the film. It leans toward the same sex lifestyle, but accepts that before and after the discovery of one's sexuality is a personal and beautiful thing, something to be embraced and loved, which is the only reason your friends are around. The film doesn't get caught up in this, though. More than anything, the film is about growing up and, in between the hardship, the tragedy, and the triumph, there is a great attitude toward life that is most charming in the film.
Much of Anderson's Cross is standard late teen fodder, but there are some really good actors here whose talents raise the film above your average indie drama. Scott, Bergdahl, and Downs have great chemistry as a threesome, but the supporting cast gives the film its life. Michael Warren (Hill Street Blues) is fantastic as Nick's dad and Joanna Cassidy (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) plays Trevor's vivacious stepmother. Horror mainstay Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects) has the most surprising turn as Kevin's father and the emotional centerpiece of the film; his work is often of the sleaziest kind, but he pulls it off here with formidably realistic skill. The wealth of longtime television talent is apparent and Scott uses it to the utmost. In terms of story, this is a fairly forgettable film, but the performances are downright excellent and I can easily recommend the film.
From Illumination, the DVD for Anderson's Cross isn't great, but it does feature a few extras. Unfortunately, the transfer is poor, and not even anamorphic, which is hard to forgive in this day. Overall, it doesn't have the artifacts that generally ruin letterboxed images, but it's still a murky and uneven picture. I thought (hoped) that I'd received a screener, but the dual audio mixes and full slate of supplements indicates that this is how it shipped. Too bad, but at least the sound mix is an improvement. If they didn't make make the transfer anamorphic, I'm not sure why they bothered to give multiple sound options, but whatever. Both the stereo and surround mixes are basically the same, with the latter featuring light ambient sound in the rear speakers. There's not a lot going on in the sound design so, otherwise, it's perfectly fine.
Our extras start with a commentary from Jerome Elston Scott, who comes across as intelligent and driven, but still a little young for him to have much remarkable to say. He goes through his influences and discusses how it was to work with so many strong people; standard and sort of dull. Nearly thirty minutes of deleted scenes give us more potential threads, though it's clear why much of it got cut. A gag reel and a photo gallery, nothing special, round us out.
Anderson's Cross is a small, sweet movie with a good attitude and a lot of heart. It won't prove terribly memorable, but it's a fine first feature.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Illumination Pictures
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