‘Highland Park’ Movie Review – Fate and Fortune
With a tagline like “Fate throws Fortune, not everyone catches,” Andrew Meieran’s Highland Park seems like it has a pretty obvious outcome. This is especially true when you get the plot details. After catching up with his film, I came to realize a likable (and familiar) cast couldn’t overcome the wild premise and unfortunately mediocre humor. Although you can’t say this movie is painfully horrible, it’s just as difficult to call it wildly fantastic.
Highland Park, the main setting of the story, is a decaying town. In an exaggerated of version today’s economic woes, the entire town is crumbling. When things continue to decline, the hits get closer and closer to home.
For Lloyd Howard (Billy Burke), the main character and principal of the local high school, this results in him cutting all funding. And by all funding, I mean ALL funding, because they can’t even afford to keep a librarian, a football team, or any of the staff.
These cuts include some of the teachers that are in his core group of friends. This group comes together every week and buys a lottery ticket with the same numbers. If they could just win one time, they could become the millionaires they deserve to be.
Of course, the odds are not in their favor.
However…what if they were? Highland Park explores this idea and sets itself up for a story ripe with potential. If money can buy everything, can it buy happiness? Obviously, we all know the age-old adage that “money can’t buy happiness.” Still, seeing this unfold wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing because it’d easily give us a “moral to the story.”
So then what’s wrong? How come the movie just doesn’t seem to work?
I think it begins with the overall premise because everything seems so manufactured. We can’t really knock the lottery aspect, but it’s hard to be as forgiving about the complete over-exaggeration. (Most) Drama needs fiction. However, it doesn’t need every single person to lose their job. It doesn’t need the prototypical “loser dad” (played by Eric Ladin) or the unrealistically corrupt mayor (played by Parker Posey).
Instead, try to keep it real.
Then, what seems to be almost worse is the amount of unfulfilled storylines. Fate and fortune and money and happiness are all great things to explore. Even if the tagline did seem to kind of give away where the film was going, at least make it work. Highland Park doesn’t seem very interested in resolving all the storylines that make sense to the “moral” of the story. It also doesn’t help a story that’s already far-fetched to begin with.
This isn’t to say this a despicable movie. It’s full of those in-between actors that you know and love but aren’t exactly household names. Although we all know Danny Glover and some know Burke and Posey, most don’t recognize Michelle Forbes (who is great in the The Killing), Rockmond Dunbar, and John Carroll Lynch’s names. They all contribute to the movie in their own ways.
It’s just too bad it didn’t come together as well as it could’ve. Highland Park is a comedy-drama somewhat about money and happiness. I say “somewhat” because it uses a whole lot of plot manipulation to set the story straight. In the end, it’s unfortunately mediocre given the cast and thematic elements.
Look for Highland Park now through Video On Demand services. It’s being distributed by Tribeca Films.
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