'Trouble': Seattle International Film Festival movie review
The family comedy-drama "Trouble" (world premiering at the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival) has all the ingredients of a strong indie film: great cast, intriguing premise and nice dialogue. But overall poor execution makes this film is a disappointment.
In short: A long-standing sibling rivalry is renewed when Ben (Bill Pullman) shows up one day and starts to build a house on property owned by his sister Maggie (Anjelica Huston). David Morse, Jim Parrack and Julia Stiles also star.
Aside from the very basic premise - of two siblings squabbling over a piece of land - very little of this alleged comedy-drama's infrastructure works. "Trouble" lacks such confidence in its basic story that the film turns to melodrama after melodrama to shove the story forward. Someone is shot. There's a comically complex fraud-based plot - that is instantly undermined with one throwaway line about a car being used as collateral. Oh, and just for good measure, a secret family connection is gracelessly revealed.
The film's problems begin with how clearly in the protagonist, Maggie, is in the right and the antagonist, Ben, is clearly in the wrong. Huston and Pullman are well cast as the colorful and lively siblings - but Huston's character doesn't get to do much. On the other hand, Ben's character arc relies wholly on a harebrained scheme. None of this would be a problem if the scheme (while admittedly crazy) was taken seriously by the film but "Trouble" does everything in its power to uncut its own plot points. Julia Stiles' character suddenly appears and introduces a silly character who has a lot at stake - but nevermind that. As quickly as her character brings some vaguely intriguing stakes into the film, they are quickly resolved and she once again disappears from the film. Its as if the film stubs its toes with every step.
And in its most frustrating move, a supporting character just up and solves the dispute -- with 20 minutes left before the credits roll. The whiplash-inducing plot turn occurs off-screen and is explained with some thin justification that it would be what Ben and Maggie's father would want. What's worse: this specific plot point is weirdly predictable - but in the "boy I hope (character X) doesn't suddenly do (plot point Y) because that would be the height of laziness." Sadly, this speaks to the overall story choices "Trouble" makes over and over.
Final verdict: "Trouble" is a comedy-drama misfire. It's attempts at humor never land. The "drama" is actually a pile of lazy melodrama cogs posing as drama.
"Trouble" screens at SIFF 2017. This film is not yet rated and has a running time of 100 minutes.