Thanks to this movie, Judge Franck Tabouring now knows sunflowers have magical powers.
Blake Lively and Max Minghella are looking for love in Will Geiger's Elvis & Anabelle, a little romantic drama that didn't go very far after playing at a couple of festivals and premiering on TV shortly after. That said, even though this film is not exactly big-screen material, it successfully follows the traditional structure of a sappy love story about two young and troubled people getting a second at discovering the beauty of life.
The movie introduces us to Elvis (Minghella), a hard-working young man who spends all of his time taking care of his unwell father Charlie (Joe Mantegna) and running his family's respected funeral home. Although he clearly knows his priorities at home and doesn't really foresee any major life changes, Elvis starts to feel quite differently about his existence when he is asked to embalm Anabelle (Lively), a gorgeous young woman who tragically died during an crucial beauty pageant.
Fascinated by her beauty, Elvis is just about to start the embalming when Anabelle inexplicably returns to life. Unsure about whether she desires to return to the life everyone thought she was forced to leave behind, Anabelle decides to spend some time at Elvis' place to figure out what it is she really wants. Although not too comfortable with the idea at first, Elvis agrees to accommodate her, unaware at first that this mysterious encounter may just be his chance to reexamine his life for good.
In terms of both storyline and dialogue, Geiger's Elvis & Anabelle is quite the formulaic experience. It's pretty easy to guess where the movie is headed as soon as these two characters meet, and the plot has no room for surprises or refreshing twists that would spice things up a bit. No, this is a traditional romance stuffed with a bunch of over-the-top drama, and that's about it. Elvis and Anabelle are two individuals trapped in a bubble they can't seem to escape and the film follows them as they fall in love and eventually discover a way to break into a world they're not used to.
Elvis is committed to taking care of his dad, who's suffering from a bad back and can't run the funeral home by himself anymore. Anabelle, on the other hand, is constantly being pressured by her mother (Mary Steenburgen) to do whatever it takes to rise to fame as a beauty queen. She's sick and tired of her life and wants a way out. Her chance encounter with Elvis gives her a chance to abandon her stress and do all the things she ever wanted to do. Her energetic attitude and hunger for adventure is also what gets Elvis to reconsider his priorities.
Elvis & Anabelle features a rather simplistic plot, examining how the two lead characters fall in love through a series of cute dates and little verbal fights. Both Elvis and Anabelle do act a tad strange for their age at times, but all in all, I applaud Geiger for generating characters that clearly transform over the course of the film. It's more the way they change that could use some originality. The movie gives you the kind of magical feeling you get to experience in most Lifetime dramas, and that makes it a cheesy flick filled with overdramatic moments.
The finale in particular takes things a bit too far, but by then you know you can't expect too much out of this material. The dialogue feels out of place at times, but the acting works. Minghella does a fine job portraying an isolated young man whose stubborn attitude gets the best of him sometimes. Lively's performance is a bit too enthusiastic at times, but her chemistry with Minghella works to the film's advantage. Also delivering a fine and above all emotional performance is Joe Mantegna, who plays the sick dad we instantly sympathize with. The acting prevents this film from being boring.
The DVD boasts a solid 2.35:1 widescreen transfer equipped with a sharp and clean picture quality and strong audio transfer. The bonus material features a fairly interesting seven-minute interview with Will Geiger, who talks about the creation of the story and the film's major themes.
Elvis & Anabelle is by no means the worst direct-to-DVD movie I've seen lately, but as a romance/drama, it doesn't offer anything I haven't seen way too many times already. The balance between the romantic side of the story and the dramatic elements is a little off at times, and some things we get to watch here are just too silly to believe. That said, the acting is solid enough and the plot's pace remains decent throughout. This movie really isn't special, but it is watchable.
Decent, but not great. The evidence requires further review. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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