- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
Like Dandelion Dust
Directed by Jon Gunn
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 104 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English; 2.0 stereo surround Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 22.98
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Review Date: January 24, 2011
Stories concerning child custody battles can be some of the most emotionally wrenching films imaginable. Kramer Vs. Kramer won its Best Picture Oscar on the strength of its core conflict as a husband and wife battled for primary custody of their son. Jon Gunn’s Like Dandelion Dust doesn’t have quite the depth of story or performance as Robert Benton’s well-regarded film, but on its own, it’s an involving drama nicely covering the no-victor situation where a much-loved child becomes the focal point of people battling to retain him. Love isn’t the primary issue; the law is.
Giving her then-unborn child away for adoption after her abusive husband Rip (Barry Pepper) is sent to prison for seven years, Wendy Porter (Mira Sorvino) informs him upon his release that they have a son (Maxwell Perry Cotton) who has been with Jack (Cole Hauser) and Molly (Kate Levering) Campbell for six years. Alcoholic Rip considers himself rehabilitated and ready to assume the mantle of husband and father, and they win the right to reclaim their son. However, taking him away from the Campbells must be accomplished in three stages, all supervised by social worker Allyson Bower (L. Scott Caldwell). Though the first stage goes well, Rip loses his temper during the child’s second acclimation visit and injures the boy thus putting their custody reclamation in jeopardy. But the Campbells haven’t been sitting idly by while the Porters are trying to win their son over to them. Knowing that legally they’re going to have to give up their child, they make swift plans to leave the country with him and never come back.
The screenplay by Stephen J. Rivele and Michael LaChance is based on the faith-filled book by Karen Kingsbury, and while the film has been produced and directed in more of a movie-of-the-week style with big emotions at the forefront and little in the way of in-depth characterization (despite having a very talented cast), it makes its points clearly and wrenches its tears from our eyes pretty easily as the love on both sides of the question is never in doubt, and one can’t help but feel for the child caught in the middle of these adults wanting what’s best for him but not always exercising rational thought in order to get it for him. The direction is mundane throughout, but the art direction by Shawn Carroll has clearly differentiated the worlds of the wealthy Campbells and the blue collar Porters to further illustrate the wrenching quality of life little Joey will undergo if the Porters are successful in their custody bid. These unparallel worlds are contrasted nicely in the film without making it melodramatically obvious which is the better environment for the boy, and were it not for some third act ramifications, it’s clear where the courts would have sided.
All four of the principal adult roles are handled solidly by a cast of excellent actors with Barry Pepper having the juiciest role and running with it as his Rip struggles to be a better man than before but having to deal with pressures and temptations he’s somewhat ill-equipped to handle at moments of extreme frustration. Cole Hauser also has a monumentally wonderful scene with his son as the boy asks if he’s his real father. It’s moments like this where the film leaves TV-movie territory and becomes something special, but the movie could have used more of them. Little Maxwell Perry Cotton also excels as Joey without mawkish sweetness but conveying Joey’s innocence and confusion about everything going on around him. Abby Brammell as Levering’s spiritually-infatuated sister seems more a plot contrivance than a living, breathing entity, another of the film’s weaker links.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35 :1 is presented in an anamorphically enhanced transfer. Sharpness and color saturation levels are above average but not eye-popping even with the location Florida shooting Occasionally, the film takes on a digital look that’s unsatisfying, and there are examples of line twitter and moiré that crop up every so often as well. Black levels could also be better. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track focuses much more on the front channels than it does the rears with the score by Nathan Larson being the primary surround experience for the movie. (There is one sequence during a Sunday church service in which the organ music and singing congregation wraps through the entire soundstage for its most effective passage.) Dialogue is nicely recorded and placed snugly in the center channel.
The audio commentary is provided by director Jon Gunn and producers Kerry David and Bobby Downes. There are certainly plenty of descriptions by the three with Gunn doing most of the talking describing their Jacksonville, Florida, shooting schedule (which also doubled for the Ohio locations for the Porter family) and speaking favorably about the entire experience.
“Like Dandelion Dust Comes to Life” is a 15 ¼-minute interview with director Jon Gunn, producers Kevin and Bobby Downes, and original author Karen Kingsbury about the original book and its adaptation. The film’s entire theatrical trailer is also played during this anamorphic featurette.
There are seven deleted/extended scenes which are presented in nonanamorphic letterbox and run 13 ½ minutes. (They cannot be viewed separately.) There is also director commentary which can be turned on or off as Jon Gunn describes why each scene was cut or shortened.
“Karen Kingsbury: Adoption Story” finds the original novel’s author discussing her commitment to her three adopted children (along with her three natural born children) and talking about each one of them and their commitment to a religious-based existence. It runs 18 minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
“Kevin Downes: Adoption Story” has the film’s producer discussing the exhausting process of adopting one of the Haitian refugee children as an act of God in this 22 ½-minute featurette filmed in anamorphic widescreen.
There are trailers for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Mama, I Want to Sing.
3.5/5 (not an average)
An absorbing family drama which might not be all it could have been but which nevertheless tells its story simply and well, Like Dandelion Dust might make a pleasant night’s rental for those in the mood for a wrenching story of families trying to do right by a young child.