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SIFF: Cloudburst - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF: Cloudburst
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Sincerity can make up for a lot. And sincerity is one thing Cloudburst has i spades. It helps make it easier to overlook the hokiness of the script. So do the actors, who bring alive characters that would be pretty one-note on the page.

Here we have Stella and Dot, played by Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker, respectively. They are a lesbian couple who have been together 31 years, and Dukakis and Fricker make then eminently believable. Stella is a hardened woman, but also foul-mouthed in a way that makes her lovable. Dot has been blind for a couple of decades and Stella looks after her.

But when Dot falls of the bed and gets a bit injured, her granddaughter, Molly (Kristin Booth), decides she needs to be put in a home. "You've been a great friend," she says to Stella, who proceeds to chase Molly off her property in a way that would never happen in real life but is tailored to entertain us. It kind of works. Still: Molly really has no idea that her grandmother is a lesbian?

Suspension of disbelief is often a problem in this movie. Stella breaks Dot out of the nursing home and they run from the law in the direction of Canada: fine. Stella is convinced that if they get married it will make a difference. It's taken these drastic measures just to get her to propose. But then they run across a hot young male hitchhiker on their way, pick him up, and he becomes a constant presence for the rest of the movie.

Cloudburst is supposed to be a touching and funny story about this elderly lesbian couple -- and it is -- but Prentice (Ryan Doucette), the hot young hitchhiker, feels tacked on to pander to potential gay male audiences. Like gay men won't be interested in just a touching story about an older same-sex couple. Don't get me wrong; Doucette is hot, and I sure enjoyed looking at him. But the semi-gratuitous number of scenes in which he has his shirt off was never lost on me either. He was a completely unessential character in this story.

Apparently Ducette appeared first as the same character in the stage play on which the film is based, by Thom Fitzgerald (who wrote and directed the film). This can only mean the play suffered from the same problem: otherwise pointless characters used as story crutches. There's nothing realistic about the relationship between these older women and the younger man, especially as their relationships develop -- as though any kid in Prentice's position would choose to spend all his time with these old ladies.

But, whatever, the movie is fun, and funny, and at times touching -- and sincere. It's a hoot to see Olympia Dukakis spewing all that foul-mouthed language, such as when she herself has to hitchhike but ends up kicked out of the guy's car because of her colorful explanation of her love of the word "cunt." Even that stuff goes a little overboard, but if anyone can strike a delicate balance with this stuff, it's Dukakis.

The basic points of the story to Cloudburst are grossly oversimplified, to the point that it comes close to being just another cute little gay (lesbian) movie. But there is real heart here, particularly in the winning performances of both the female leads and even the superfluous supporting role of the hitchhiker. All of them are likable people you want to keep hanging out with, even when their behavior makes little sense.

I got a kick out of it, in any case. Cloudburst ends up far more enjoyable than maybe it deserves to be, but hey -- whatever works.

Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker are a geriatric Thelma & Louise (with a happier ending) in CLOUDBURST.

Overall: B
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