Old people are so funny! Flagg Purdy (a perpetually disinterested Alan Arkin) has been playing chess with neighbor, friend, and one-time romantic rival Gus Falk (Austin Pendleton) for over 30 years, always the loser but never lacking for perseverance. Enough is enough, however, when an increasingly smug Gus allows his sheep to graze around Flagg’s drinking well (owned by the former, but used by the latter’s family for ages via an unspoken agreement), thus contaminating its stores with their polluting excrements. Gus and Flagg’s quarrel escalates into a full-blown courtroom showdown that—as a result of legal fine print and incidental evidence—sees a transferred ownership of the well, an outcome that results in Flagg being outcast by the community at large for his purported thievery. Depression over his social rejection and subsequent loss of employment as a for-hire handyman, Flagg finds himself unwilling to leave what he’s convinced is his imminent deathbed, his sorrow over an imperfect life causing him to give away his (and his wife’s) most valued possessions in hopes that their new owners will look upon him more kindly after he’s gone. Although cute family ties are evoked when Flagg’s now-grown offspring congregate to cheer up the old man (their pigeonholed diversity rivals that of Speed‘s unlucky commuters, sans tongue-in-cheek awareness), Raising Flagg never deals with its themes of familial and communal acceptance beyond the kind of overly-polished philosophical bites one might find inside a greeting card. Furthermore, the initial triggering of Flagg’s depression is a forced, awkward narrative device the film never truly overcomes (largely because Arkin never feels a tangible part of the community to begin with), leaving the bulk of the proceedings with an unavoidable tinge of contrivance. The film neither challenges nor amuses, its homespun pontifications about love and forgiveness but lip service and its irritating attempts at quirky humor (complete by tingly xylophone accompaniments) banal at best. Only once does Raising Flagg effectively evoke any semblance of human emotion, during a scene in which Flagg finally comes to terms with a key figure from his past. The remainder, then, is left to the realm of wasted opportunities.
- Cinema Libre Studio
- 102 min
- Neal Miller
- Nancy Miller, Neal Miller
- Alan Arkin, Lauren Holly, Glenne Headly, Barbara Dana, Austin Pendleton, Matthew Arkin, Robert Blanche, Lyssa Browne, George Fosgate, Jordan Fry, Ernie Garrett, Jan Hoag
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