The payoff isn't nearly as interesting as the cryptic set-up and disquieting performances and scenes that precede it in "The Wait." Still, this movie about a family failing to deal with the death of the matriarch and the differing forms their denial takes is promising enough in premise that M. Blash's solid script attracted actors of some repute.
Jena Malone and Chloe Sevigny are sisters who have gathered in their mother's spacious home in a wooded subdivision in the mountains of Oregon. They're there to say goodbye and watch mom die, which she does in the opening moments of the movie.
Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Jena Marlone, Luke Grimes, Devon Gearhart.
Rating: R for some sexual content, brief nudity, language and drug use.
But Emma (Ms. Sevigny, of TV's "Portlandia," "The Mindy Project," etc.) fields a phone call from a stranger, a woman with a folksy, reassuring drawl.
"Love is in the air, darlin'. Things always happen for a reason." And here's the kicker.
"They will return. Have a good life, now."
Emma is beside herself. She's expecting a resurrection. Odd, seeing as how she's a hospice nurse and there hasn't been one of those in millennia. She refuses to surrender the body or even admit to a mortician that her mother has passed on. She enlists her young daughter (Lana Elizabeth Green) in her fantasy and starts planning a party.
Younger sister Angela (Ms. Malone, of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and TV's "Hatfields & McCoys") is nonplussed but apparently unwilling to challenge her elder sister. She finds ways to get out of the house and a reason to want to in the hunky would-be historian Ben, played by Luke Grimes of "True Blood" (who has been cast as the lead in "Fifty Shades of Grey").
And the sisters' much younger brother, Ian (Devon Gearhart), wanders off, carrying a teenager's priorities and seemingly in shock at Emma's decision to wrap the body in a sheet and wait for something.
"You're creepy," he says.
Everybody's dealing with a secret something here, be it a troubled mind, a broken marriage or bisexual curiosity. And as they cope and try to avoid each other or learn about each other's issues, a forest fire is working its way toward them.
"The Wait" is a quiet and austere picture, and the setting and tone are reminiscent of the Tilda Swinton thriller "The Deep End." Except this isn't a thriller.
Mr. Blash, who used the same two leads in 2006's "Lying," hints at mysteries within mysteries and maintains a faintly chilly tone. Is something sinister or supernatural about to happen? Are they all doomed by the coming blaze?
Striking landscapes -- often with smoke in the background -- and odd images prevail; a horse, accidentally doused in reddish-pink fire retardant, a viral video of a little girl yanking free of an adult to hurl herself in front of a train.
So Mr. Blash puts an awful lot of intriguing ideas and possibilities on the table. But he is plainly a filmmaker who hasn't yet worked out that tricky business of making them pay off.
Playing Saturday and Sunday at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.
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