Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Miles Heizer, Marin Hinkle, Eugene Byrd, Bonnie Root, Steve Eastin, Laura Cer�n, Margo Martindale, Kathryn Joosten, Steven M. Porter, Jim Cody Williams, Kerri Randles, Maya Goldsmith, Michael Raynor, Micky Levy, John Nielsen
Written by: Micky Levy
Directed by: Alison Eastwood
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, an accident scene, brief nudity and momentary strong language
Running Time: 96
Date: 09/01/2007

Rails & Ties (2007)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Train Wreck

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It takes a huge amount of patience and skill to make a successful weepie; only a few filmmakers in the last century, such as William Wyler and Douglas Sirk, could really pull it off. Clint Eastwood did it once, with The Bridges of Madison County (1995), but Clint's 35 year-old daughter Alison, making her directorial debut with Rails & Ties, bungles it spectacularly. In presenting heavy material like cancer, suicide and orphaned children, one needs a light touch to counter-balance it, but the younger Eastwood tells her story with sledgehammer blows. Kevin Bacon plays Tom Stark, a railroad engineer whose wife, Megan (Marcia Gay Harden), is dying of cancer. They're sad because they never got around to having kids. Meanwhile, a messed-up woman (Bonnie Root) drives out to the railroad tracks and commits suicide by allowing Tom's train to crash into her car (he didn't have enough room to stop). Fortunately, her young son Davey (Miles Heizer) survives. He escapes his horrible foster home to track down his mom's "murderer" and winds up staying with the childless, but loving couple. (Tom and Davey bond over their mutual passion for trains.) But Tom uneasily awaits his hearing to determine his responsibility in the death. Eastwood shoots everyone glum or brooding or crying, accompanied by somber piano music, and she never allows the movie enough breathing room to make the situation seem credible.

DVD Details: Warner Home Video was clearly as uninspired by this movie as I was. The only extra is 8 minutes of deleted scenes. The disc also includes trailers for Love in the Time of Cholera and The King of Kong at startup. The movie is enhanced for widescreen TVs and comes with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.

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