Sissy Spacek always gives fully realized performances, whether she plays a listless and dimwitted 15-year-old delinquent in Terrence Malick's Badlands, an abused teen with telekinetic powers in Stephen King's Carrie, or Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter. But maturity has added an unexpected layer to her portrayals — as a mother grieving for her murdered son in In the Bedroom, and now in Lake City, in which she depicts a hard-working country woman haunted by a family tragedy that took place years earlier. More than voiced feelings, it's her silences and expression that resonate. Without saying a word, she evokes nostalgia, pain, and even a sense of peace as she gazes at her denuded farm, on which she has lived for decades and now must vacate. Her fine work is only enhanced by her undisguised age: the weight gain, the leathery skin, and the clearly visible facial lines. Regrettably, it's all wasted in a mediocre flick that, while engaging on a rudimentary level, could be virtually any TV movie that vaguely holds your interest while you eat a takeout dinner or lie in bed.
Lake City is about an estranged mother and son in the rural South. Specifically, it tells the story of a young man, Billy (Troy Garity), who gets in trouble with the vicious drug dealer Red (Dave Matthews) and is forced to leave town with his drugged-up girlfriend's abandoned child, Clayton (Colin Ford), who has been abandoned. With no place to go, Billy returns home, to a mother with whom he's had little contact. The pusher is in pursuit and battles are fought on all fronts, most pointedly at the old homestead, where external crises bring familial issues to a head. Family secrets are revealed, festering resentments aired, and reconciliation achieved. Unfortunately, the plot is all too been-there-done-that with its well-worn scenarios and characters suffering from various personality disorders. Undoubtedly, Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program has been useful to many, but do we need to hear about its virtues yet again or, worse, sit through another dreary meeting of people in recovery thanking each other for "sharing"?
Still, there is some fine acting here. Garity, who is the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, performs admirably in the role of an unhappy young man struggling to break through his mother's protective shell of avoidance. Ford is an impressive child actor who can be light and playful at one end of the emotional spectrum and torn apart with grief on the other. Rebecca Romijn is believable enough as Billy's ex-girlfriend who is now an alcoholic cop. Most noteworthy is Matthews as one mean dude who, motivated by sadism and fear, brutalizes others while his thug bosses are terrorizing him. But the deft performances cannot salvage a script bereft of a gripping narrative or an original insight.
Written and directed by: Hunter Hill and Perry Moore
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Troy Garity, Rebecca Romjin, Dave Matthews, Colin Ford