Thursday, December 05, 2019

Grand Isle: The Latest Nic Cage Movie of the Week

In the movies, impending storms usually accompany simmering sexual tension, possibly laced with violence. That is true in spades for this soon-to-be water-logged Louisiana Barrier Island burg. Crazy Walter would rather bat down his handyman than batten down the hatches in Stephen S. Campanelli’s Grand Isle, which opens tomorrow in New York.

With tons of debt, a new born daughter, and a frail wife perhaps suffering from a mild form of postpartum depression, Buddy needs money, so takes an odd job fixing Walter’s fence. For some reason, the swaggering alcoholic insists he must complete the job that day or no dough, but the poor handyman cannot finish before the gale-force storm rolls in. (Seriously, it is only eight or ten white pickets.)

Reluctantly accepting the shelter Walter grudgingly offers, Buddy finds himself in the middle of a very dysfunctional marital dynamic. Before long, Walter’s Maggie-the-Cat-like wife Fancy starts coming on to Buddy in such an unsubtle manner, even Walter notices. Of course, that just makes him angrier and more unstable. Yet, he also has an offer to make Buddy. It is not exactly the “indecent” kind, but it will definitely be criminal. Regardless, Buddy will rue the day he walked into their home, especially during Detective Jones’ in media res interrogation sessions.

This is Nic Cage’s fifth film released in theaters this year, with another due January, so we have to admire his work ethic. He clearly has a keen affinity for Louisiana noir (after all, you can see his future pyramid-shaped crypt in St Louis Cemetery #1). As Walter, he snarls with all the wild abandon you would hope for. Nevertheless, it is still disappointing to see him help resurrect the hurtful stereotype of the crazy Vietnam veteran. In fact, screenwriters Iver William Jallah and Rich Ronat go out of their way to portray the Vietnam Vet as a monstrous caricature, setting the film in the year 1989, for no discernible reason except for making the raging Walter age-appropriate for his supposed service record.

It is too bad Grand Isle turns out to be such a buzz kill for veterans and their families, because Cage largely maintains the right level of crazy as Walter. It is also great fun to watch Kelsey Grammer lay down the law as no-nonsense, God-fearing Det. Jones. Plus, KaDee Strickland chews so much scenery as Fancy, we can definitely buy into her marriage to a Nic Cage character.

Still, Jallah & Ronat’s script is not half as clever as they think it is. Nearly as troublesome, Luke Benward’s Buddy is just dull as dishwater. Ultimately, Grand Isle just has too many narrative holes and shortcomings to recommend, despite the colorful efforts of Cage and Grammer. Basically, it lands somewhere between mediocre and disappointing. Not recommended, Grand Isle opens tomorrow (12/6) in New York, at the Cinema Village.