Lately, there seems to be a wave of commercial Hollywood actors experimenting with independent films that generally have short, limited releases in the theaters and enjoy most of their success after they are released on DVD. These films offer those big name stars a chance to mingle with the not-so-famous in a film that might get less love at the box office than their traditional big-budget fare. “Winter Passing,” which was released on DVD in mid-May after a short February box office run, is no different in that sense. For this film, Ed Harris and Will Ferrell took time out of their major Hollywood film careers to join reigning indie-film princess, Zooey Deschanel in the directorial debut of Adam Rapp.
Deschanel stars as Reese Holdin, a struggling, self-destructive actress. One fine day, Reese is approached by a book publisher who wants to print the love letters that her famous writer father (Harris) once wrote to her late mother – for a small sum of course. Reese accepts the offer and heads to see her father in Michigan. Upon arrival, she encounters Corbit (Ferrell) – a wannabe musician – and ex-grad student Shelley (Amelia Warner), both of whom live with her ailing father. Her homecoming initiates a much-needed healing session for both Reese and her father, who must now decide whether she really should publish those private letters.
Although the storyline is simple and straightforward, Rapp creates a film that is full of subtleties. The growth and changes of each character are not predictable or obvious, and this forces the viewer to pay attention to the smallest details of all the actors’ performances throughout the film.
Rapp’s film narrowly escapes being just an average movie because of the excellence of his cast. Not a stranger to these types of roles, Deschanel carries the weight of the film with great ease. To a film veteran like Harris, the role of the aging father is nothing extraordinary or exciting, but he does his best to believably portray the reality of a widower with a slight drinking problem. And, Ferrell’s Corbit single-handedly infuses the film with comedy, as he delivers a performance that truly enhances the film. Every one of his scenes is hilarious, featuring classic Ferrell antics to a lesser degree. It is nice to see him take on a subtler role that differs so much from his usual repertoire – it is clear that this is a different tack for him, but he still manages to be believable.
While Rapp may not offer anything new to the independent film scene, he does prove himself to be an up and coming director worth watching. His strengths lie in his unique ability to really capture the cities he films in, as well as the strengths of each character. “Winter Passing” is a film that captures an emotional journey home that leads to self-discovery. The film is far from perfect, but the cast alone makes this film worth renting. As the tagline says, “Sometimes you go looking for something you want. . . and find what you need.”