Friday, October 09, 2009

cinema obscura: Jordan Brady's "Waking Up in Reno" (2002)

A game Swayze with Theron and...
Thanks to the vagaries of life, Natasha Richardson and Patrick Swayze, both of whom passed this year, happened to co-star in a little-seen comedy by a first-time filmmaker named Jordan Brady. "Waking Up in Reno" is one of those unfortunate Miramax titles that was filmed, shelved and then barely released during the waning days of the Weinstein reign.

Not surprisingly, given its bumpy journey, "Waking Up in Reno" was promptly dismissed by those few critics who bothered to see it. (TV Guide gives it one star, although it is highly questionable that the person who graded it even watched it.) Fact is, "Waking Up in Reno" is something of a comic find, a sort of redneck "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice," with Swayze paired with Theron and Richardson with Billy Bob Thornton as two rural couple-y friend from Little Rock, Arkansas who head to Reno for a holiday, arranged around a Monster Truck Show there, only to get sidetracked by some unexpected country-western feelin's.

The film tickles and teases and earns its laughs. The script by actors Brent Briscoe and Mark Fauser is genuinely witty, with some unexpected underlying intelligence that Brady keeps subtle.

The four leads have terrific chemistry, with Swayze revealing a rarely displayed comic edge and both Ricardson and Theron mastering credible cornpone drawls. The funny comic David Koechner has a bit here, and Penélope Cruz puts in a game cameo. Worth checking out.
Richardson with Thornton in "Waking Up in Reno"
Richardson, who sustained blunt impact trauma to the head during a skiing accident outside of Montreal on March 16 and died two days later in a New York hospital, was immediately memoralized by Swayze.

"It is such a great loss to this community to lose an actress and person such as Natasha," the ailing actor commented upon her death. "Gifts like her don't come along very often. It's a rare thing in this industry to have someone with so much talent, beauty, and dedication and yet is imbued with such humility. I know for me and many other people, the world will be a different place without her. My heart goes out to Liam and his two boys, but I'm sure that Natasha's light is shining down on them,"

Coincidentally, Swayze also worked with Liam - Liam Neeson - on John Irvin's 1989 thriller, "Next of Kin."

Six degrees in Hollywood is not restriced to Kevin Bacon exclusively.


Alice said...

This is a laugh-out-loud funny movie and the performances aren't cartoon-like at all. I think each actor brings a sense of humanity to each character. These may not be Oscar-calibre performances but they are certainly a mark above other comedies like this.

Stefan said...

I saw this. It's a nice enough film, but the director is really lucky to have this cast, especially Richardson.

joe baltake said...

Yes, Stefan, the diretor was very fortunate to have this cast.