Sundance Review: Birds of America

Birds of America is a film that really, really wants you to like it. They’ve filled the cast with zany characters, and even thrown in a few indie-pleasing actors such as Ginnifer Goodwin, Ben Foster, and Hilary Swank. However, a gimmicky script, stunted conversation and a stutteringly slow pace does not a winning film make. You want to care, you try to care, but the film is playing a good game of “hard to get," and nothing can be done about it.

Matthew Perry stars as a Morrie, a middle-aged man who was put in charge of his siblings (Ben Foster and Ginnifer Goodwin) at a very young age. He’s chosen a stifling suburban life teaching and is striving for tenure, while his younger brother and sister have struck out on their own, presumably to throw off the shackles of oppression and free their minds. Hilary Swank and Lauren Graham co-star as the nosy neighbor and the sweetly supportive wife, respectively. When Morrie's messed-up brother and sister (as played by Foster and Goodwin) unexpectedly return to their hometown and to his house the question becomes: What will happen when everyone finds themselves at home again for the first time in years?

Watching Birds of America in a group setting was enlightening, as already-bored industry types grew even more distant and unaware of their surroundings, with some people even going so far as to fall asleep, in disdain for the film.

Ben Foster and Ginnifer Goodwin are the saving graces of this film, but perhaps a little too caustic in their search to portray their unruly natures. One of the few scenes that rings true with emotional honesty, and realism, is the interactions between Ginnifer Goodwin’s character and a former lover. Though we may not care too deeply one way or another how Goodwin meets her end, the scene is difficult to process, especially if you’ve ever attempted to tell an unwilling party that you love them deeply.

When the emotional highpoint, and even the climax, of a film is watching a grown man take a dump on someone’s lawn, you have to ask yourself what in the world is wrong with America. Birds of America feels too long, even at an hour and a half, and while the film begins with mild promise, nothing could help this dodo take flight.

Grade: C