Seven Days in Utopia

8 Oct

Title: Seven Days in Utopia
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Matt Russell
Writers: David Cook, Rob Levine, Matt Russell and Sandra Thrift, based on the book by Mr. Cook
Starring: 
Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Melissa Leo, Deborah Ann Woll
MPAA Rating: 
G
Runtime: 
99 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
12%

 

Robert Duvall is one of the greatest actors to have ever lived, that’s pretty much a widely accepted fact, you look at some of the characters he’s played, those in films like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, his Oscar-winning turn in Tender Mercies, what for me was his career-best work in The Apostle and last year’s Get Low (which I gave an A- to), the guy is just ridiculously good pretty much every single time he gets a second of screen time. And yet you look at the film he signed up for here and the performance he gives in it and you can’t help but feel kind of dumbfounded, this is just a really bad movie, and it’s as though only an actor of the caliber of Mr. Duvall could have given a performance as horribly mediocre as the one he gives here. It’s one of those cases in which you think that you can only play a character so bad because you’re actually really good. I don’t know, I’m just trying to still say that Mr. Duvall is the greatest, I just really disliked Seven Days in Utopia.

It’s this sort of fable tale kind of film, about a professional golfer who suffered abuses from his father and then suffers a huge breakdown at a championship and finds his way in the tiny town of Utopia, where he meets an old man who promises that after seven days there he will once again be playing awesome golf. Because, you know, Utopia is the sort of place in which you’ll learn about yourself and faith and life and everything in between. Yeah, that’s the kind of film Seven Days in Utopia is, it’s even rated G for God’s sake, and I’m not one for gratuitous swearing or anything, but an f-word or two would have certainly helped this film get the sort of attitude it would have needed to coming close to succeeding.

It’s the old wise man that Mr. Duvall is in charge of playing here. Again, this is a man who’s pretty much as perfect a thespian as anyone can be, and yet his performance here sucks, not because he sucks but because this character is just horrible. You know the character he plays from that brief description of the film I gave you above, he’s the old wise man that will impart some of his hard-earned life wisdom on the lost soul and make him a better man who truly knows how to embrace his inner-self and yadda yadda. And you know what, even though the vast majority of times I dislike these storylines, I get that this is supposed to be an inspirational film and inspirational films need them, but you look at how some of the best sport-related inspirational films like Seabiscuit or Rudy or Miracle got the inspiring part across and it was always done in some very neat way that really touched you, this film comes across as some cheap DVD of a third-class motivational speaker who does scarcely-attended talks at rundown motels.

Oh, and yes, like I said in the paragraph above, Seven Days in Utopia is an inspirational film about a sport, more specifically, one that uses golf as its G-rated metaphor for all things family, faith and morality. And it just really doesn’t work, I didn’t hate it like I hated the last film I saw (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy) but I’m just really pissed off about the two films I have seen today, I wanted something that worked and instead I got a lazy and clumsy R-rated raunchy comedy and a very unconvincing G-rated inspirational sports drama that was just the least compelling thing ever, but hey, at least you can’t blame me for not trying out a wide range of films today.

Lucas Black, who actually also starred with Mr. Duvall in the aforementioned Get Low as well as in Sling Blade (though they shared no scenes in that one), is the one in charge of playing the pro golfer, Luke Chisholm. Now, Luke was beaten by his father who was intent on him going pro, and then, as he blows the championship on the final hole, he, and the whole audience watching there and at home, sees his father walk away from him. Trying to blow some steam off he goes out for a drive but, oh sweet fate, his car breaks down in this small town where he meets Mr. Duvall’s old wise man, Johnny Crawford, who just so happens to own a golf resort in town. It’ll take seven days for his car to be repaired, and just as long for Johnny to do some real repairing in a far more important aspect. If that last line sounded cheesy you can blame it on this movie.

I wanted to like something here, Johnny’s past is briefly alluded to here and it sounds dark and abusive, and if Mr. Duvall had been given the slightest of chances to draw from that I’m sure something totally worthwhile would have come out of it, but no, his character is kept super straight-forward and we must buy that. We must buy a film about an abused golf pro learning life lessons from a former rising star who lost it all to booze that’s set in a Southern ranch and in which some pretty bad things happen and yet everything is kept super clean, not a single curse word, and just the total sense that everything is going to turn out fine. Again, I didn’t hate this film, I just thought it was really really bad because you can’t buy a second of it, and when you have a cast that includes Mr. Duvall, to say nothing of the great Melissa Leo and True Blood‘s Deborah Ann Woll, who I seriously love, and you see them being this wasted, you can’t help but get a bit mad.

Grade: C-

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