There's a certain subgenre that I've dubbed "the hanging out movie" - you know, that film where a group of friends gather together to drink, eat reminisce, complain and have sex.
John Sayles arguably introduced the form with his breakthrough movie, "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" (1979), and his idea was quickly appropriated a few years later by Lawrence Kasdan for "The Big Chill" (1984). While Sayles' film was scruffy and companionable, Kasdan's arch, glossy take on the material took it to its nadir. Still, it was phenomenally, inexplicably, popular, inspiring several imitations.
One of the least-known clones is John Huddles' "Far Harbor," a 1996 effort that, like Kasdan's movie, uses death to bring its cast of characters together. In this case, it's the death of a child which inspires a weekend getaway. Ryland (Jim True-Frost) thinks it will be good for his stressed wife Ellie (Jennifer Connelly) - and their marriage - if they play hosts to several friends in the seaside Far Harbor.
Playing the guests are Marcia Gay Harden, Dan Futterman, George Newbern, Tracee Ellis Ross (Diana's daughter), Andrew Lauren and Edward Atterton, who plays a struggling film writer named Frick (you heard me) and who also happens to be Ellie's first husband.
So much for a stress-free weekend.
The material is underwhelming but the gifted young cast - well, young in 1996 - makes for good company, and Futterman in particular stands out in a few edgy scenes. "Far Harbor" was Huddles' first and only theatrical film; he subsequently directed the cable movie, "At Sachem Farm" (1998), starring Minnie Driver, Rufus Sewell, Amelia Heinle and Nigel Hawthorne, before seemingly disappearing from the scene.
Originally titled "Mr. Spielberg's Boat," the title was changed after Steven Spielberg refused permission to use his name. And so the name Steven Spielberg in the film became David Sprechman, an unseen character whose status as a famed filmmaker brings out the impatience in Frick.
"Far Harbor" pops up on the Independent Film Channel in September, airing Saturday, Sept. 4 at 8:30 a.m. (est), Saturday, Sept. 4 at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 16 at 10:45 a.m. and Thursday, Sep. 16 at 6:00 p.m.