Two films, one quest: finding connections | AspenTimes.com
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Two films, one quest: finding connections

Stewart Oksenhorn
Kip Pardue, left, and Michael Kelly star in Tim Kirkman's "Loggerheads," showing Friday, Jan. 20, at the Wheeler Opera House. (Strand Releasing)
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I sat through “Loggerheads” mostly engaged with its multiple narrative of the residents of two North Carolina towns, and somewhat bothered by writer-director Tim Kirkman’s insistence on telegraphing things – emotions, relationships, plot – to the audience.

My annoyance with the film’s obviousness even had an edge of humor to it; there were multiple moments when I could accurately fill in the next line of dialogue. “He left God,” says the Rev. Robert (Chris Sarandon), the father of a runaway son. “No, he left us,” I responded, before those words came out of the mouth of the preacher’s wife, Elizabeth (Tess Harper).The film’s habit of laying it out starts from the opening scene. A disembodied voice is marveling about the existence of the loggerhead turtles that inhabit the North Carolina coastal resort of Kure. The voice observes that the turtles swim about, with no apparent direction, until they happen upon another turtle. The random connection can then turn into a meaningful relationship. If that were not enough to lay out, at least in part, the theme for “Loggerheads,” that very piece of dialogue is repeated later in the film, only this time, we see who is speaking, and have come to know his character.The speaker is Mark (Kip Pardue), a gay, HIV-positive, young itinerant in Kure Beach who communes with, and protects, the turtles. Mark is the adopted son of Rev. Robert and Elizabeth, the one who “left God” by happening to be homosexual. He is also the natural-born son of Grace (Bonnie Hunt), whose drifting life has caused her to search for an anchor – starting with locating the son she gave up for adoption, against her will, 20-something years ago. Lastly, Mark is a possible romantic interest of George (Michael Kelly), a kind and emotionally centered motel owner. (George is also brokenhearted, and in another instance of telegraphing, we know why the instant we see a photograph of George with an unidentified, but clearly deceased, partner.)Around these three strands, Kirkman spins an ensemble drama that touches on intolerance, community and parenting. At the heart of “Loggerheads,” however, as promised in the opening sequence, is connections: how we make them; what we do with them; how and why we let go of them – and at what cost.

“Breakfast on Pluto” finds writer-director Neil Jordan exploring similar ideas as he did in 1992’s “The Crying Game.” Cillian Murphy stars as a transvestite; the troubles between the Irish and English crop up unexpectedly.Oddly, however, the film that “Breakfast on Pluto” most resembles, thematically, is “Loggerheads.” Stylistically, the two could not be more different: “Loggerheads” is low-key and slow; the flamboyant “Breakfast on Pluto” crams more than you can imagine into its two-plus hours. Emotionally, they are on different planes. “Loggerheads” is somber; in “Breakfast on Pluto,” Murphy’s character, Patrick “Kitten” Brady, constantly rails against the word “serious,” and filmmaker Jordan generally acquiesces to that demand.But Kitten, for all her quirky romances, episodes in offbeat theaters, makeup and outfits, is looking for a connection. Like Mark in “Loggerheads,” Kitten has been abandoned and adopted. Like Grace, she is seeking a family member in an effort to complete her history, to complete herself.

“Breakfast on Pluto” shows at the Wheeler Opera House Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 17-18. “Loggerheads” shows at the Wheeler Friday, Jan. 20.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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