"My heart ached, but at the same time, I knew our adventure was just
This mediocre film aired on April 27, 2003. Had it not been a made-for-TV movie, and had it been done with a better budget, it would have had the potential to be a really good bildungsroman (coming of age) film. However, A Painted House was a made-for-TV movie and is not an exceptional film.
Facts of the Case
It's the summer of 1952 on a cotton farm in the Arkansas Delta. Up until this summer, Luke Chandler (Logan Lerman, The Patriot, Riding In Cars With Boys) had never told a lie, never kept a secret, and had certainly never been interested in girls. During this summer, two sets of migrant workers come to pick cotton on the Chandler's farm; two dangerous men and a beautiful young woman come with them. During the course of the film, Luke will witness a murder, fall in love, and hide some secrets that could deeply affect the lives of his family and the town he lives in.
A Painted House is very clearly a bildungsroman: it centers on Luke and the last summer of his life where there was a sense of innocence. He witnesses a murder, falls in love, and starts keeping secrets. But, throughout the story there really isn't a sense of growth, at least in the acting. We know that Luke has changed, because we can see what he is going through and, at the end of the story, we are left with a clear feeling of nostalgia for what could have been an innocent, fun summer. Yet even though Luke has passed his coming of age, he doesn't really seem to have grown. Coupled with the theme of innocence is the painting of the house. One of the migrant workers tells Luke that their house is nicer because it is painted, and before long a coat of gleaming white paint appears on part of the house. We later find out that the mentally handicapped child of one of the migrant worker families has started to paint the Chandler's house. Even after a flood forces the family to leave, Luke takes it on himself to finish painting the house. This action is the clearest in the story that marks his growth.
I thought the acting was kind of flat. The movie had a surprisingly good cast: Scott Glenn (Urban Cowboy), Arija Bareikis (Snow Falling on Cedars), Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poet's Society), and Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story). With this well credentialed cast, I expected a little more in the way of acting, but found most of it rather unexciting with very little differences between emotions.
The picture quality of the film was excellent, which is to be expected for any film made in the 21st century. Some of the shots could have been composed a little bit better, but for the most part it was an enjoyable film to watch. The sound quality of the film was not anywhere near as exceptional as the picture quality. There were several points where I found myself asking my roommate: what did he say again? In addition to an overall average sound quality, A Painted House had very little to offer in the way of a soundtrack. This movie also offered nothing in the way of extras. While they did offer production notes and biography notes, they were absolutely unreadable on a television screen, although they did look okay on my computer.
As a made-for-TV movie, A Painted House really isn't all that bad. There are better bildungsroman films available, but if you grew up on a farm or you are a die hard John Grisham fan, this may not be too bad of a rental. Then again, if you really like John Grisham, try The Pelican Brief or The Firm or read the book.
A Painted House stands guilty as charged. All involved will be sentenced to whitewash my fence.
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