Around the Bend
movie doesn't have to make big noisy motions to capture an audience's
imagination. Sometimes it is enough to look closely at interesting,
eccentric, passionate people living their lives the best that they can.
Around the Bend is a
movie like this. It is a movie about family. Four generations of
a family, in fact. Henry Lair (Michael Caine) is an elderly former
archeologist who knows he is close to dying. He lives in a crowded LA
apartment with his grandson Jason (Josh Lucas), his great-grandson Zack
(Jonah Bobo) and a nurse (Glenne Headly).
is thrown upside down with the sudden reappearance of Hunter; Henry's son,
Jason's father and the grandfather Zack has never met. Hunter is a
small time musician and part-time criminal who has spent much of his past
either stoned or in jail. He has finally become sober and agrees to
see Henry one last time before he dies.
Henry decides that this is the perfect time for
the family to get out the old VW van and take one last trip. Four
generations of a family can get to know each other and maybe forgive for
However, Hunter is not one who believes strongly in
revisiting the past. He plans to leave on a bus the next day to likely
never return again.
Jason, who is unhappy with his job as a banker and
in the middle of breaking up with his wife (Kathryn Hahn), also seems to
have no real interest in reconciling with the man who left him as a child.
So, Henry goes to extreme
measures to get the men of
his family to take one last trip.
Thus begins a three-state tour of cheap motels,
Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, family milestones and long buried
resentments. Hunter and Jason are both less than
enthusiastic to be on this journey and quickly past angers start to make
them chafe upon each other. For young Zack, though, the adventure
allows him to finally understand more about where he comes from.
As they go through a scavenger hunt of their
past lives constructed by Henry, Hunter and Jason slowly start to thaw
towards each other. Though both are a little guarded with the secrets
of the past, more and more we learn how this family became so broken.
The film explores all this with surprising
humor, quirky plot points and well-earned drama. Instead of taking a
potentially dark look at the old cliché — you can pick your friends but not
your family — Around the Bend instead recognizes the
ties that bind even the most damaged families. (9/04)
Jay S. Jacobs