Thursday, May 22, 2008

Keys Movies

It was a dinner date at a friend's house nearby. The wife and I had originally planned to meet the other couple on an island in the back country for a barbecue on one of the few Lower Keys islands equipped with something more substantial than mangrove roots. The island in mind is 40 minutes from my house by boat up a broad channel, but the winds were howling at well over 20 miles per hour on Friday morning. So we executed Plan B, and drove over to their place where we set light to the barbecue on the deck and ate flank steak and salad by candlelight. Which is all very well and good but because we weren't crouched uncomfortably on Tarpon Belly Key's rocky "beach" we had electricity and overhead fans (they aren't big on air conditioning in that household!) and a video player. That meant movie night.I had no memory of Criss Cross, a 1990 film set in 1969 and shot in and around Key West. I am frequently ready to ditch a movie because I know the location and the plot ruins it, or vice versa I'll watch a movie only because I know the location and the plot is just an irritant. Criss Cross really does show Key West as it was in 1990, and completely recognizable today but the plot itself is entirely worthy if one had no interest at all in the shooting location. In this case the Eden House on Fleming Street, rendered shabby to illustrate the era:The plot is simple enough, Goldie Hawn's character is divorced from Keith Carradine's and while he mopes in Miami ( they pay a visit from key West illustrated by footage shot on the old Seven Mile bridge:And very evocative it is too, with all camera angles masking the presence of the modern bridge).
The single mother works in a rather disreputable field, as a dancer, and her son in an effort to build the family budget to buy a house gets involved in some business that is way over his head. Not that he isn't youthful and entirely charming in his shock of blond hair and his Southern California surfer-dude drawl even as he partakes of the childish delights of Key West and environs:I liked the local scenes which were integral to the plot and not too outlandishly misplaced. Truman and White Chevron after a summer rain:And the old Peary Court long since lost to Navy housing. This shot can be placed by the presence in the background of the White Street Armory towers:And an unusual shot, rendered impossible since 2001, of the underside of the Coastguard Piers:The plot moves along merrily against the backdrop of the first lunar landing and I found this movie to an entirely enjoyable treat. We shouted out the locations as it moved from place to place and none of us fell asleep.

My back up movie for the night had their unreliable video disc player failed was a cassette edition of Tollbooth, a movie made in 1994 and released two years later with a pretty low key cast playing out a contemporary melodrama. This one is set "somewhere" unspecified in the Keys at a tollbooth that was rigged on the end of the No Name Key Bridge. The set:As it was earlier this week:As for the plot, the video store clerk glowered at me darkly and muttered something about hoping I wasn't too attached to the No Name Key bridge as it wouldn't look the same again to me. I slunk out clutching my films hoping I wasn't in for too much gore. I am no fan of horror films. The movie locations made little sense in relation to reality, because in another scene the booth looked like this:Its actually a love story, boy meets girl kind of thing and the story goes downhill from there. There are a number of unpleasant people lurking around the tollbooth where he works and the gas station where she works, and the bait shop owned by the third leg of the triangle. It's a story in the style of Carl Hiassen involving road kill:A fear of butterflies (?!) and trailer parks in the stereotypical Florida style:All of which combines for a bizarre story with a surprising outcome. I rate it as okay, but by its nature a tollbooth is a pretty static location for a plot and the fact that the booth is known to be on a road to nowhere in this viewer's mind makes it a little harder to get stuck into the plot which in any case is not based on a realistic premise. In my estimation it was fun but not exactly compelling. Same tollbooth supposedly looking completely different than earlier in the movie...Ah yes, but the Keys are always pretty to look at.
Oh and don't get muddled by a 2004 film called The Tollbooth, a zany family comedy set in a Jewish new York household or something like that according to the blurb. A fine film I'm sure but not the one if you want to see the Keys in all their glory!

1 comment:

Noble Savage said...

Hello friend (forgive the familiarity, but I feel like I know you thanks to your posts)--I just saw this and know you love movies about the keys: