Think they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore?
Maysville is proof they do.
The Appalachian drama is set in the 1920s, but it might just as well have been filmed then, too. The violence is mostly offscreen. The only vaguely erotic moment comes when the leading lady goes for a midnight swim – in a freezing lake, in her underwear.
Add in lots of lush, sweeping music, some pretty landscapes, and a small town full of the most upright, god-fearing folks you ever did see – well, except for the villain, who drinks and yells at the pastor – and it’s difficult to believe this isn’t an old movie.
Or, at least, a very special episode of The Waltons.
But if you can take it on its own, sweet-tea-and-biscuits terms, there’s something a little comforting about Maysville, a movie you could safely watch with your mother and your daughter. Even if you might find yourself drifting off a bit at times.
Part Southern Gothic, part soap opera, it begins to get into gear when young Teddy accidentally causes the death of his best friend. Although no charges are filed, the mourning father will not be appeased. So he kidnaps Teddy at gunpoint, and puts him to work on his farm, as slave labor.
But after four long years, Teddy escapes. And goes in search of the family he was torn from – and maybe something like justice.
The screenplay by Leslie Goyette, who also directed, doesn’t always hold together. Characters often act illogically, or contribute to contrived misunderstandings by neglecting to ask simple questions. By the last half hour, the whole thing turns into a corkscrew of twists.
And throughout the film, everything is just a little too well-scrubbed. This is a small Appalachian town in the ‘20s, but everyone seems to have new clothes and more than enough to eat; even the drunken villain lives in a nice house. There don’t seem to be any poor people, and the town is quietly, racially diverse. It’s a Disney-fied image of America.
Still, Goyette has assembled a decent cast, particularly the fresh-faced Kevin Mayr and Cheyenne Barton as the young leads. Actually, as a first-time director, the fact that Goyette’s pulled this together at all is impressive. A two-hour period film, complete with antique cars, costumes, furniture and interiors?
Those can present some serious challenges, and her handling of a few other tricky sequences, including a barn-burning, show real capability.
Again, sometimes this old-fashioned movie is just a little too determinedly squeaky clean; if it’s not quite at the sanctimonious level of the “faith-based” films you sometimes see, it could certainly be safely screened at any church’s youth group. It would be a stronger film if a bit of real life occasionally intruded.
But then, these days, sometimes real life is what you go to the movies to get away from.