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by Jay Seaver

"I believe in these characters.. and would like to punch them in the throat."
2 stars

Since it has already screened, the description for "Sedona" is no longer on the Brattle Theatre's website for reference, but it included the words "quirky", "spiritual", "magical", and "miracles". Well, at least three of the four. Now, there's nothing wrong with any of those, but line enough of them up - and use them as selling points, as opposed to things for the audience to discover - and there's a good chance that the movie is trying way too hard.

Sedona, Arizona, certainly is a pretty town, set amid some awe-inspiring scenery, which is why Scott (Seth Peterson), his partner Eddie (Matthew J. Williamson), and sons Denny (Trevor Sterling Stovall) and Jeremy (Rand Schwenke) are there on vacation, even if Scott is the sort who tends to bring his work and Blackberry along with him. Tammy (Frances Fisher), on the other hand, aims to just pass through on her way to an important sales presentation in Phoenix. However, when Denny wanders away from his family and Tammy gets involved in a truly bizarre automobile accident, they wind up dealing with more of the town and its residents than they'd planned.

Sedona is the sort of movie that is built on coincidence that occasionally works as serendipity, which is okay to a certain extent. The trouble is, writer/director/producer/editor Tommy Stovall seems to think that it rises to the level of destiny or magic, something that happens because Sedona is so very special, and that's not something it earns by a long shot. The natives talk a lot about "the vortexes" in a way that makes one wonder if they know the meaning of the well as a fair amount of other mystical mumbo-jumbo that maybe resonates with the residents but ends up just piling contrivance on top of bad decision. Oh, Stovall and his movie have a sense of humor about it at times - some of the goofier residents come in for a ribbing - but lots of characters, like the astrologist/pedicurist played by Beth Grant, are apparently meant to be taken seriously.

Or, perhaps that's a side effect of decent performances throughout the cast - yeah, Grant's Deb makes me want to run from the theater screaming, but she's the sort of person I'd hate having around in real life, too. She's an authentic kook. Every character in the film seems genuine, whether small-town eccentric or Type A visitor. Frances Fisher is especially good as Tammy; she's a fine foil for those around her and quite sympathetic as she struggles with her bad memories. Seth Peterson is also fairly good as the father looking for his lost child; the part could have been a caricature even though Stovall takes care not to make it so.

He does fairly well in other areas, particularly teaming with cinematographer Rudy Harbon to get some very nice shots. Granted, a large part of that is just the environment; the mountains and desert around Sedona are gorgeous and the town itself looks to be the sort that a talented set designer would construct if a film needed a pleasant small town. There aren't a lot of technical things executed poorly, just as there aren't many bad acting jobs, although few are good enough to transcend the foundation it's built upon.

Stovall lives in Sedona, and as such likely buys into the mystique built up around it. Maybe that's the root of his film's many problems; he's so certain of the place's specialness that he doesn't bother to build a case for it which will justify the liberties the movie takes based on it. It's a fatal flaw; though few moments of the film are worse than annoying, fewer still are good enough to counteract the bad ones.

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originally posted: 01/02/12 15:30:57
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User Comments

1/04/13 Xandy Lifson I enjoyed this movie immensely! Sedona scenery is spectacular & there's a sweetness to it 4 stars
4/08/12 Carolyn Sitko This charming movie explores the unique effect Sedona has on characters we might recognize. 4 stars
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