Anjelica Huston and Bill Pullman are Siblings Battling Over Family Land
DIRECTED BY THERESA REBECK/2018
Families sometimes fight. Some fight less than others, but eventually they all do at some point or another. The tag-line for the film Trouble tells us that some families “just do it better than others”. Theresa Rebeck’s story about older-aged siblings fighting over their father’s land, looks to see how true that is.
Maggie (Anjelica Huston) has been caring for her late-father’s land that she and her brother Ben (Bill Pullman) inherited after their father’s passing. Ben had been bought out of his share of the land by Maggie and her late husband over some debts he had, in which he was willing to sell the land to the highest bidder.
Not wanting to lose the place that held such wonderful memories, Maggie spent the money she had buying Ben out, but its been a drain on her finances ever since. She resents Ben a great deal over the whole affair, and becomes livid when she hears a back-hoe being used on her land, announcing that Ben is back, trying to dig up part of what is now “her” land. She frantically tries to involve Sheriff Logan (Brian d’Arcy James), but this being a small Vermont town, and with Ben having permits in hand, this one is going to have to be fought out properly among siblings.
Joining Ben in his hair-brained scheme to get his part of the land back from Maggie is his friend Gerry (David Morse), son Curt (Jim Parrack), friend Ray (Victor Williams), and Curt’s girlfriend Rachel (Julia Stiles). It seems that Ben’s pursuit of reclaiming the land, is being driven by his resenting Maggie for buying him out instead of just loaning him the money. He came to win, though his plan and permits are not on the up-and-up. This is probably why Maggie shoots him.
Theresa Rebeck uses all of this as a backdrop to the idea of how one drop of bitterness can poison the well and blind us to the love we truly have for one another. Trouble begins with a flashback of Maggie and Ben as children learning from their father about flowers, especially the ones their mother had loved, as a means of showing us the love that was once shared in the family prior to the financial transaction that sowed the seed of discord. Resentment is a bitter root.
These same flowers are ground zero for Ben’s second salvo, which results in Maggie grabbing her gun. Gerry becomes the one who must find a way to bring them together. He was their third musketeer growing up, running all over the land with them and even being a part of their “50 year time capsule”. As children, they promised to dig it back up 50 years later to reveal what items they have placed inside. This history puts Gerry in an unenviable position where he seems to be caught in the middle of his best friend Ben, and the girl he has loved from afar for decades, Maggie.
Despite the heaviness of the subject-matter, and the description of Maggie shooting Ben, Trouble is actually a comedy, albeit a dramatic one. The cast is terrific and both Anjelica Huston and Bill Pullman are perfectly cast as feuding siblings. Pullman is having somewhat of a late career revival playing interesting curmudgeons like he did in The Ballad of Lefty Brown. Huston continues to shake things up, defying any attempt to be pigeon-holed or stereotyped, and she is much more interesting as a result, in each and every project she takes on. David Morse is always a solid supporting actor, and here that proven track record continues to shine.
While some of the gags (Pullman being shot, and stubbornly checking himself out of the hospital-more than once), and plot devices (the way permits are so easy to obtain, or policing seems to look the other way since its a small town and everyone knows each other) are somewhat over-the-top, or downright ridiculous, Trouble keeps everything reasonably grounded to the simple story of sibling conflict and the importance of resolving our conflicts while there is still time.
The pacing of the film is as laid back as the Vermont town the story is set in, and it helps to give the characters and setting a more authentic “lived-in” feel which props up the more comedic side of the script. This pacing may still try the patience of audiences at times, despite a reasonable 100 minute run-time. Trouble definitely shows that all families fight. Whether or not Ben and Maggie embody the ideal of a family that does fights better than others is up to debate I guess. Personally, I didn’t buy that, but it is a decent enough story that has its heart in the right place, and a cast that makes it worth a view.
Trouble opens in select theaters nationwide on November 2, 2018, including the AMC Katy Mills in Houston, Texas.