2010 Heartland Film FestivalRating: 4 of 5 yaps
Superficially “Harvest” is reminiscent of a film from 1998 called “Spanking the Monkey.”
In both films a college-age young man is forced to give up his summer to help care for an ailing relative and is frustrated by his girlfriend. Family secrets bubble to the surface, and…well, that’s where the comparisons end, believe me.
Where David O. Russell’s “Monkey” went WAAAAY off the deep end, “Harvest” stays on the straight and narrow path, focusing on young Josh (Jack Carpenter, whom I know from the horrible comedy “I Love You Beth Cooper”), who is looking forward to spending his last college summer away from his family, with his girlfriend, and getting ready to move on in his life.
But his grandfather (Robert Loggia) has terminal cancer, so his mother (Victoria Clark) demands he stay home for what looks to be his grandfather’s last summer. His grandmother (Barbara Barrie) is suffering from dementia and at times can’t remember her childrens’ names.
If you expect a film full of sullen attitudes, snarky comments, and a familial blowup, well, you’ll get it, but not from Josh. He a more or less even-keeled young man, frustrated by his situation but determined to make the best of it.
No, it’s the older generation that can’t keep it together. Josh begins to suspect his uncle (Ayre Gross) is manipulating Josh’s grandfather to cut the brothers and sisters out of his will. Another of Josh’s uncles is the mayor of the town they live in, but doesn’t get along with his family.
And then there’s Grandpa, determined cancer won’t take him without a fight and still hoping to squeeze a few quality moments out of his life before it ends.
I loved Loggia’s character in this film. He turns on that charm he has at his best, and there are several out-and-out sappy (but very effective) Hallmark moments, but Loggia, with his trademark sass, makes it work. His moments with his wife are similarly priceless bits of unequivocal love.
Carpenter, too, is effective, playing it straight and balancing his character’s frustration with his sincere willingness to help the grandfather he adores.
In less refined hands, “Harvest” would have been a slice of sentimental fluff, but writer/director Marc Meyers handles the emotion with a delicate touch, knowing when to play the situations serious, and when to turn family squabbles into a silly farce. He lets everything come to the viewer, rather than forcing an agenda on us, and the film is better for it.
“Harvest” is a cold glass of iced tea after a funeral, a bit of comfort food when something sad is happening, but still giving you hope that everything will be okay.