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SBIFF

Mount Joy
updated: Jan 31, 2014, 2:00 PM

By Rosie Sullivan

Mount Joy - directed by Jack Lewars, 86 mins. Click here for more information on the film.


(Photo Source: MountJoyMovie.com)

Mount Joy tells the story of a three-man-band on the verge of a country-wide tour. The film starts off simply - with a song. There is a man playing his guitar and singing while a woman dances and chimes in, "I'm your baby…" We soon learn this man, Sue, is the lead singer of The Living Daylights and the woman, Alex, is his lover and the band's tour manager. Alex, sister to the twin brothers in the band (George and Randy), is trying to sell the family house before they embark on the upcoming tour. But one day, after receiving a mysterious phone call, Alex disappears to Ney York, leaving behind three confused men. Broken-hearted, Sue decides not to do the tour and resigns himself to his life as a trash collector in the small town of Mount Joy, PA. The twins decide to keep the house, which is full of sad memories of their dead parents. They are hopeful that Alex will return and Sue will change his mind about the tour.

Several months later, she does return. She tells her brothers about her disappearing act, but the audience and Sue are kept in the dark. Effectively, this is meant to draw out the suspense and add to the mystery of Alex's secret. Certain scenes add up, though, and, before we hear her say it, it is evident that she is dying. In fact, she ‘has what her mom had' - cancer - and does not have long to live. This is devastating to all and no one knows quite how to cope. Alex is only slightly better adjusted then her friends and family; she has come to terms with her impending death and wishes not to be treated like she is sick but also has difficulty grappling with everything and feels ‘crazy and out of control.'

Written and performed by the film's actors, the notable soundtrack is a persistent force outside the diegesis. The song choices do well in adding a sense of urgency to scenes or in creating a common theme throughout a sequence of shots. And when the soundtrack falls silent, the chirping of grasshoppers or other diegetic sounds complement the action in the scenes. After a certain point, however, I got the feeling that the director had a bunch of music that he wanted to put into a movie but did not have a strong plot. There are great shots of corn fields, vibrant green meadows, and the back end of a garbage truck, as well as fun scenes of the band playing. These combined with the soundtrack are not quite enough to strengthen the story line. While most of the performances were good, some of the dialogue sounded forced thus detracting from the overall emotional pull of several scenes. There are also several, seemingly randomly placed, flashbacks. Hypothetically, they are there to allude to the strength of the love between Sue and Alex. The flashbacks and montages of close-ups of things such as dandelions, clouds, cigarette butts, lighters, eyes, and shoes fail to enhance and only distract.

This lighthearted story of a band embarking on an exciting tour quickly turns into a story of loss and sadness. Unfortunately, I did not feel particularly invested in the characters. The film is lacking in scenes that make you care about the love story. When Sue and the brothers lose Alex, sure, it is sad and obviously distressing to them. But, neither the love story nor the characters had been developed enough. And when, in the end Sue leaves Alex alone in the family barn, telling her he will be right back, the audience can tell that she is about to kill herself. And sure enough, she pops pills, tries to light a cigarette and falls. The barn is soon engulfed in flames.

The film does not choose to end on this sad note, however. It goes on and creates an easy, happy ending. The band finds out Alex never cancelled the gigs and so they head out on tour, finally able to follow their dreams to leave the nowhere town of Mount Joy. If you are looking for a lighthearted story, with good music, and a twinge of sadness, check this film out.


Mount Joy cast on the red carpet.

 

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