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The Lightkeepers DVD Review

The Lightkeepers DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com The Lightkeepers

Theatrical Release: December 18, 2009 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Daniel Adams

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Seth Atkins/Bascom), Tom Wisdom (John Brown/Russell Brooks), Blythe Danner (Emeline Bascom), Mamie Gummer (Ruth Lowell), Bruce Dern (Bennie D.), Jason Alan Smith (Ezra), Julie Harris (Mrs. Deacon), Stephen Russell (Jedediah Snow), Ben Dreyfuss (Grocery Boy), Theodora Greece (Impressed Lady)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $27.97; Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.97 SRP)

Buy The Lightkeepers on DVD from Amazon.com Buy The Lightkeepers on Blu-ray from Amazon.com


One thing distinctive to independent filmmaking is anonymity. Directors making small low-budget movies outside the system may not reach a huge audience, but they also don't have to worry about earning the number of detractors that the few household name helmers have.
You could have a hundredth of the creativity that M. Night Shyamalan does, but chances are that none of the general public cares. And if they do, it's probably because they think you did a good job on some movie that they, likely not a regular moviegoer, saw on a whim.

A rare semi-exception may be Cape Cod filmmaker Daniel Adams, whose IMDb message board consists of two threads: one by a company owed $12,000 cautioning against collaboration and the other questioning the imaginative career assessment offered by his biography on the site. The message boards for Adams' handful of sparsely-seen films are no more encouraging, even by IMDb's "Jack Nicholson warned him", "Looks like...", "When is this getting released?", "Who played [clearly-credited supporting role]?", "[Critically Acclaimed Film] Sucked" discussion standards.

Adams made The Lightkeepers, his fifth and latest film as writer/director, around the same time and place he shot The Golden Boys. Like that film, this period romantic dramedy was based on the writings of author Joseph C. Lincoln (though his 1911 book The Women-Haters only receives an inspired credit at the film's very end), received a PG rating, featured some accomplished older actors, and hardly played beyond the Cape Cod area.

You do NOT ask Seth Atkins (Richard Dreyfuss) if he's married! (He is, by the way.) What's this? Two eligible ladies (Blythe Danner, Mamie Gummer) on the Isle of Woman-Hating? Scandalous!

Set in the Cape in 1912, The Lightkeepers stars Richard Dreyfuss as salty, misogynistic lighthouse attendant Seth Atkins. He enjoys isolation and detests prying. When a young British man (Tom Wisdom) washes up on shore calling himself John Brown and being deliberately vague, Seth is suspicious. When Brown asks Seth's marital status, the defensive little old man gets downright nasty. But, the two of them being men and all, Seth reluctantly obliges the castaway a chance to fill his newly-vacated assistant position. Each keeps his baggage hidden while swearing off women.

But, wait, what's this? Two women are approaching the lighthouse, one about 30 years old and the other around 60. Where could this possibly be going? Surely, the women will be turned away by these bitter bachelors, right? Wrong! The educated Ruth Lowell (Mamie Gummer) and her housekeeper Mrs. Bascom (Blythe Danner) both uncover buried connections to the lightkeepers and if they weren't destined for romance, the DVD's cover would look a lot different.

The Lightkeepers has a cable television feel to it, which would be fine if it were made for cable television. But in fact it's an independent film meant to be a throwback and a word-of-mouth recommendation. It succeeds only in that older people are the most likely to tolerate it.

Ruth (Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep) and "John Brown" (Tom Wisdom) have a completely natural and authentic chat in period bathing wear, just as friends did back on the Cape in the Summer of '12. Trust the Gorton's Fisherman. It's Richard Dreyfuss, damn you!

Looking like the Gorton's Fisherman and speaking with an accent that varies from Constitution Framer to feisty leprechaun, Dreyfuss really hams it up here. It's a performance you'd more expect from a semi-professional regional actor than someone who starred in some of the best movies of the 1970s. The film seems to encourage the broad approach,
giving us ample opportunity to soak up the chewed scenery. The most glaring example of this comes when the two women are said to be a mile away from the lighthouse, which somehow in horse-drawn carriage time gives us a good eleven non-real-time minutes of shameless, awkward exposition in the guise of male bonding.

Though the genuine visuals and sounds are up to par, the film has a real amateurish quality to it. Sloppy takes are used with unnatural verbal stumbles, shots are repeated as if they were not, coverage is insufficient, and, more than once, scenes are patched together in an incongruous fashion. I guess when the movies you're making may as well just be for you and your community, no higher-up is going to step in with obvious notes and pointers. But from the acting talent Adams is able to attract to his invisible projects, you'd think there'd be a greater degree of achievement and pride.

Debuting on DVD and Blu-ray this week with the look of a direct-to-video movie, Lightkeepers actually received an Oscar-qualifying one-week run in Los Angeles last December along with a two-week engagement in Cape Cod that broke the modest records of one theater on the peninsula before turning up at a couple of 2010 film festivals.

In the unlikely event you've heard of this movie, it may be on account of the publicity that arose in early 2009 when actor James Caan filed a colorfully-worded $5 million breach of contract lawsuit against the production after his lead role was turned over to Dreyfuss. The studio denied Caan's claims, but I can find no news or ruling beyond that. Perhaps Caan and his management decided it'd be best not to be associated with this film.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Lightkeepers boasts satisfactory picture and sound in Image Entertainment's DVD. The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer provides numerous looks at the coast that the director calls home (and, long before him, the late author). It's maybe not as sharp and vibrant as studio fare, but the warm colors and clean image delight nonetheless. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack distributes more atmosphere than expected from all the different channels. The sounds of waves and gulls reinforce the idyllic setting that is important but not overplayed. The lack of subtitles and closed captioning is unfortunate.

A goateed Richard Dreyfuss appears to be out of his gourd, discussing Ellis Island, Napoleon, and his unused tagline in this arresting bonus interview. Writer, director, and Cape Cod resident Daniel Adams is all smiles talking about the film in his interview. The main menu gives you the healthy serving of white bearded Dreyfuss that the cover art holds back on.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD includes interviews with Richard Dreyfuss (8:48) and writer/director Daniel Adams (5:06).

Dreyfuss' is one of the most fascinating bonus features I have ever seen. The actor/executive producer is shockingly off his rocker here, seizing the opportunity to talk about the state of America and historical oppression.
One feels tremendous sympathy for the unseen young woman asking about the movie and getting bitter off-topic rantings in reply. Consider it a sobering and unexpected warning on the long-term effects of drug use.

Adams' interview is far more ordinary. While he sings the praises of older people and compares the movie to those of Frank Capra, one gets the sense that he himself wrote the questions.

The disc nicely includes a trailer for The Lightkeepers (2:22) and opens with full trailers for That Evening Sun and $5 a Day.

The main menu runs montage in the horizon behind Dreyfuss and Danner's swapped cover headshots to an odd arrangement of Zana Mesihovic's end credits-reprised song "If You're Wondering".

Tom Wisdom must be a pepper, cuz you know Richard Dreyfuss is teh salt!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Lightkeepers is sort of quaint but also cheesy, unfunny and only entertaining in unintended ways. Dreyfuss' ham-fisted performance sets a tone that others follow, and the broad acting serves to highlight the unpolished and predictable nature of the writing and direction. The whole film seems like an excuse for period play and nostalgic longing (for what, it's never clear). While I probably don't need to encourage you to pass on this, if you happen to rent this disc, make sure to check out Dreyfuss' bizarre interview. I think I'll remember that long after I forget the pedestrian movie it accompanies.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy on Blu-ray / Buy the Book by Joseph C. Lincoln

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Reviewed November 15, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 New Films International, Cape Filmworks, Dreyfuss/James Productions, and 2010 Image Entertainment.
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