It was my collaborator BKG who pointed out to me how many of Ed Harris’ roles have been actual figures from history, especially recent history. His first real movie success, the result of inspired casting, was that performance of convincing verisimilitude as John Glenn in The Right Stuff. There was famous marine William Walker in Walker. Gene Kranz in Apollo 13, Jackson Pollock in Pollock, even E.Howard Hunt (Nixon) and John McCain (Game Change). And Ed Harris has played Ludwig van Beethoven. Finally, can we count as real that image in the mind of Russell Crowe’s tormented character in A Beautiful Mind? An actor’s actor; a man’s man — and a woman’s. There is nobody like him.
He is outstanding once more, playing a different kind of real-like figure in Touching Home, made by Logan and Noah Miller in memory of their troubled father, called Charlie Winston in the film. Brilliantly titled with at least a three-way pun, Touching Home is a melodramatic, unoriginal story of a dysfunctional family. But it is shrewdly told with indirect exposition. We learn about the twin brothers’ passion for baseball and about their hard childhood with their hard-drinking father in just the gradual way we might, in our own lives, get to know about friends and their family relationships. The clever writing combines with the quiet simplicity of tone to draw us into the heartbreak of three lives and into the lives of those they know.
Logan Miller and Noah Miller, the inexperienced duo who not only wrote and directed Touching Home but also play the twins who desperately need but almost never have their father’s attention, are excellent. Ishiah Benben as Lane’s grilfriend is feisty and believable though the script keeps her on the periphery and allows no development of her character or of her relationship with Lane. Brad Dourif is a delightful Uncle Clyde, and Robert Forster is solid and touching as police chief Perk.
But this is film is about Charlie Winston and his effect on others, especially on his sons and the game of baseball which is their lives. Played by Ed Harris, Charlie is not on screen that much, but oh! when he is! This is one of our country’s very best actors. He has had outstanding stage successes, but on screen he has soared both in commercial hits and independent and offbeat productions. Here as the always ultimately drunk father, he is thoroughly convincing and never appears to be acting. While we deplore him, we have to pull for him.
Russ Egan on imdb: “I wasn’t watching a movie. I was allowed to share a family’s precious and not-so-precious memories. I will not forget this experience.”
There is a short but excellent background article on Touching Home by Clark Collis in Entertainment Weekly, 5/3/10.
written and directed by Logan Miller & Noah Miller
music by Martin Davich
* * * * *
RECOVERED QUOTE: Chuck Stevens, writing in film comment about There Was a Father (ricksflicks 9/6/13): “The duty of appealing to wartime censors casts a certain ideological chill over There Was a Father (42), but fans of the great Chishu Ryu, who gives one of his most hushed and heartbreaking performances, won’t mind a bit.” (film comment, 7/8/2010).
* * * * *
MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE: The impoverished black landlady in Cry the Beloved Country says that all she wants is enough to care for her children “and maybe once a month a trip to the pictures.” (Alan Paton)
Next FRIDAY Post March 21
See you at the movies,