Thursday, March 31, 2016

Another disastrous family reunion

It has been a long time since I've seen a movie in which behavior seems more out of synch than it in director Matt Sobel's Take Me to the River. This story of a gay California teenager who travels to Nebraska with his mother and father for a family reunion deals with deeply buried family secrets, but can't get much beyond tense atmospherics. The twist: young Ryder (Logan Miller) is accused by his hair-trigger uncle (Josh Hamilton) of molesting Molly (Ursula Parker), his nine-year-old cousin. Sobel never really tells us how a blood stain appeared on Molly's dress when Ryder and the girl were playing alone in a barn. Molly behaves in an awfully seductive manner for a nine-year-old, which makes Take Me to the River one of the few movies to acknowledge that kids aren't asexual beings. Secrets and lies notwithstanding, there are too many times in Take Me to the River when you may find yourself wondering why these characters don't challenge one another when they see behavior that makes little sense. At one point, for example, Ryder's mom (Robin Weigert) tells the boy that he should spend the night in a dilapidated shack on the family property to ease family tensions. Really? Because of scenes such as this -- and one in which Hamilton's character puts a pistol into Ryder's hands -- Take Me to the River doesn't compute, a sin made graver by the fact that the movie is playing with the fire of child molestation.

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