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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Go West, Young Man.

The Good Life on IMDb

Plot Overview

College News

football and flagHere Lincoln is home to the University of Southern Nebraska whose residents are foot­ball fans, not the least of which is the family of foxy Frances Jones (Zooey Deschanel) who declaims, “I hate foot­ball,” but whose dad is a cultural icon in the sport. Further­more, Frances being the remaining singer in a family group—after they lost her older sister—is a minor celebrity in her own right. Her mother/manager gave her pills to help her cope with the rigors of travel and charity concerts. She also fell into the habit of shining on her audience with half-truths and out­right lies after she discovered they readily believed her every word. In an attempt to live a normal life, she got married two years ago, after telling her guy who knows what. He was dissatisfied with what he got and fell into homo­sexual sin and got caught. She divorced him a year ago. Now her family has granted her a leave from singing in order to recover. She has taken to going to the Capitol theater in town to watch old movies with show tunes.

loversspud manspudspudspudStrictly small potatoes is 25-year-old Jason Prayer (Mark Webber) whose dad was a cop who lost it from dealing with all the crazies on the job and offed him­self. Jason still lives with his mom Diane (Deborah Rush) in a run­down dwelling. He pumps gas by day, and by night he works at the Capitol theater that can't afford new movies so they stick with vintage. He strikes up a conversation with the afore­men­tioned Frances who declares they are soul mates and initiates a slow-burn relation­ship with him, she being more sexually mature for having been married. Their mutual solace and encouragement helps them grow until they can move on to what's next.


cornucopiaTGL provides us a map embedded in the plot: “It's the road ahead and the road behind. It's the first step and the last and every one in between, because they all make up the good life.” It follows (Prov. 30:24) “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:”

football player(Prov. 30:25) “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.” The first step is to get busy while young, in the summer of life, with an eye to future provision. Frances started singing when she was five, her role model Judy Garland at eight. Gus (Harry Dean Stanton) the old coot who owns the theater “started working here as an usher when I was 14-years-old.” Jason started there in high school. His nemesis Tad Tokas (Chris Klein) “starts as defensive tackle at Lincoln high” and becomes “Number one high school draft choice to a college of my choice.” Well, whoop-de-doo! Every­one got started on the right foot. What could go wrong?

(Prov. 30:26) “The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.” The next step is location, being situated in a place conducive to thriving in one's field. This screen Nebraska is an off­shoot of the wild and wooly west. The coach has it, “We're gonna attack as aggressively as possible.” A bill­board ad has them blasting away their opponents above the caption, “Guns don't kill people; we do.” Jason's place in this setting is like one in a Ralph Cotton western:

He'd been small and frail as a child, and unlike other boys his age in the territory, he'd never adjusted to this harsh land. It was not his fault, and it most certainly wasn't his choosing. He simply wasn't right for this place and time, and he knew it. He was a timid young man, and this world frightened him. It always had.

Sure, he could handle a horse if he had to—and if it was well saddle-broken. He could chop wood. He could do most of the things that ordinary life here on the desert frontier required of him. But these things were not part of his makeup. They did not come naturally to him as they should have.

Jimmy kept this way of life at arm's length as much as possible. His father had always called him a fingertip worker—this in a world carved out by and for the two-fisted, the rough and tumblers of this wild young land. (37)

Sure, he could pump gas and pop popcorn, but when an irate customer, two years his junior, started a fist fight, Jason lost it on the first blow (“Baby bitch took only one punch.”) Jason laments, “I hope to leave here some­day, … but like the snow­flakes trapped inside a snow globe, I wasn't going any­where.” He's a snow­flake in the desert, not protected like the conies.

(Prov. 30:27) “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” The next step on the road to success is to cultivate an informal support network. When a crisis at the theater forced Jason to miss his bus, and he couldn't reach his family on the phone, a sympa­thetic patron Robbie (Bill Paxton) offered him a ride home. Tad the “psycho,” on the other hand, was unable to form any kind of alliances, even his sister tried to sabotage his prize muscle car, and nobody has picked him now five years out of high school. He was stuck where he was (“Some of your aspirations are unrealistic considering you live in Nebraska.”)

(Prov. 30:28) “The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.” Those palaces get dusted regularly, but the spider keeps giving it another shot and his web is up the next day. Sure, your dreams fall through, but that's the nature of the game. Give it another go; that's how to succeed. Frances ought to give singing another chance.

chauffeurShe does sing a beautiful rendition of “The Sunny Side of the Street” to Gus whose health is on the decline, but with the right attitude he's living the good life as is a darky in the movie, “The Harvey Girls” shown doing a soft-shoe number as happy as can be though he's working in the service sector.

Production Values

” (2007) was written and directed by Stephen Berra. It stars Mark Webber, Zooey Deschanel, Harry Dean Stanton and Bill Paxton. The acting was good for an indie film. Especially note­worthy was Mark Webber who played Jason.

lit up treeMPA rated it R for language. Jason's family & friends had rather perverse customs of gift-giving involving practical jokes often in poor taste. They even infringed on cultural norms of: Peter Pan, The Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the apostle Paul. This latter warrants some detail.

dance lineThe minister eulogized Jason's dad with words (Romans 5:3-4) from the New International Version Bible (NIV) comforting the mourners for their “sufferings” rather than for their “tribulations” found in the King James Version (KJV.) The updated version would explain Jason's strong reaction to his mom taking up with Fred who bought her some cow­girl boots for to join him in dancing at a club. Jason was a church­goer as was his whole family, we assume, but not Fred.

Which translation is God's word?Paul rightly commanded, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” That means Christians shouldn't mix their church services with pagan practices. Fred's go-go dancers would have no place there. The plural pronoun “ye” applies to such congregations and group settings. There is no singular pronoun thou or thee, which would apply to an individual marriage, nor does Paul any­where else prohibit a mixed marriage. It's even clearer in the Greek, but we do our best in English with the KJV.

Modern translators to make English versions more palatable have substituted you for thee and thou and you and ye. They still call them “formal equivalent” translations, i.e. word for word, but apart from the KJV dialect there is no distinction in second person pronouns between singular and plural—unless one wanted to tap into some southern dialect. So they read some­thing along the line of “Be not unequally yoked” leaving the you-under­stood undefined-number save by context that nobody reads.

The NIV translators have gone to a “dynamic translation” philosophy, which consists of meaning for meaning rather than word for word. That means they specify in common lingo their ideas of what the text said rather than what's explicit in its words. To their minds this you was singular as well as plural. That colors other of their passages, as well. The apostle Paul allows a widow to marry any (eligible) man she wants to, just so she doesn't back­slide in the process (i.e. she remains in the Lord), (1Cor. 7:39) “The wife … if her husband be dead, is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” The NIV translators have by their lights reworked the adverbial phrase “only in the Lord,” modifying the action of entering into matrimoney, into a new adjectival one modifying the intended, “but he must belong to the Lord.” They have made up words to fit their own ideas. With this supposed prohibition against a mixed marriage, Jason is dead set against his mom taking up with Fred. But the romance is not developed beyond this tension here; in the movie it's used for another example of a person, a minister no less, on stage playing fast and loose with the truth.

The show tunes where found were divine. Don Davis also contributed some effective music. It was filmed on location in Manitoba, Canada. Runtime is 1½ hours.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

star of DavidHere is an unfolding drama of people seeking the good life whose success seems to depend on whether they have wisdom one can read of in the proverbs. Charlie Chaplin's soliloquy projected in “The Great Dictator” suggests the good life should be open to all, Jews, Gentiles, blacks, whomever, but part of that has to do with contentment with what one has. It touts horse sense rather than movie magic. It is what it is. Go for it if that's what you like.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise noted, scripture was quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Cotton, Ralph W. Justice. Copyright © Ralph Cotton, 1999. New York:Signet Books, 1999. Print.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. From memory & print.