Friday, October 02, 2009

cinema obscura: Dennis Lee's "Fireflies in the Garden" (2008)

Julia Roberts and Ioan Gruffudd in Dennis Lee's high-profile/low-profile film, "Fireflies in the Garden"

Movies that don't open - or that open without any advance critics' screenings - are automatically (hastily?) written off by said critics as embarrassing failures. Hence, the reluctance on the part of the studios.

Not so. Sometimes films are abandoned - or dumped, to use a less polite term - strictly for political reasons. If the head of a studio doesn't personally like you, chances are your film will be sacrificed. Or maybe your film is politically incorrect, stepping on the toes of other companies associated with the studio (see Mike Judge's "Idiocracy") that paid you.

The fact is, Hollywood routinely markets and screens awful films all the time and sometimes quite enthuiastically. I mean, the big-screen version of "The Avengers," hidden from the critics in 1998, was no better or worse than any other film released by Warner Bros. (or any studio) that year.
Willem Dafoe with Roberts
This is all in preamble to bringing to your attention Dennis Lee's "Fireflies in the Garden," which was made in 2008 but whose planned June 24th release in New York this past summer never happened. Which is odd, considering the film's star wattage: Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hayden Panettiere and Ioan Gruffudd.
Carrie-Anne Moss and Ryan Reynolds
It would be too facile to dismiss a movie that can attract a cast of this calibre. Certainly, there must be something about "Fireflies in the Garden" that's appealing and/or compelling - at least, to actors. Or, it could be awful.

Who knows?

Dennis Lee, who based his film on the Robert Frost poem, is an Asian filmmaker new to me. He had penned the scripts for a well-regarded shorts prior to making his directorial debut with this one.

A domestic drama, "Fireflies in the Garden" reportedly is driven by a lot of flashbacks and flashforwards as it delineates three generations of a troubled family, headed by Roberts and Dafoe as a woman and her domineering husband. Reynolds plays their grown son, a writer driven to examine his life, particularly his childhood, when his mother dies in an automobile accident. Moss plays Reynolds' wife, and both Panettiere and Watson play Roberts' sister, then and now.

The core of "Fireflies in the Garden" revolves around the edgy, contentious dynamic between father and son - Dafoe and Reynolds. I, for one, would have liked to witness it.


wwolfe said...

Reynolds is an interesting actor. I didn't enjoy his work for quite a while, starting with "Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place" on TV, and continuing through his first batch of movies. Too smug, too flip, too willfully weird. Then, unexpectedly, came his performance in "Definitely, Maybe": grown-up, tough on himself, and generous toward his fellow actors. This was followed by "The Proposal," a movie both predictable and enjoyable, with good chemistry between Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. Now I'm curious to see what he does next. "Fireflies in the Garden" seems like it could find a home on IFC or Sundance, or at least some late night showing on HBO. (Or even On Demand, come to think of it.) This sounds like a movie that was orphaned by a change of studio regimes, or a closing of a boutique mini-studio by its parent company. Hope it finds a home someday.

Edie said...

OK, OK, now how the heck did this film not get released. I'd sit through anything to watch this group of people interact - a really eclectic cast. Plus, plot-wise, it sounds like my kind of movie. Set it free!!

Anonymous said...

Well I just watched this movie and like most of you I haven't been able to find it anywhere in the US. I watched a European copy that came out a long long time ago I believe. All i can say is seek it out. I am a fan of the performances in this movie especially the support cast. It's beautifully shot and nothing short of shocking that it was never released (in the US) I have worked with Dennis Lee and one of the producers on a previous short and was really excited to see their big debut reach audiences. In a tough business you'd think this cast would at least get you an art house release but....Anyway, I'm just saying there are ways to see it and you should explore your options.