Sweet, succulent baby Jesusing fried chicken—it’s a good movie coming out in January.
Granted, Little Accidents, written and directed by first-timer Sara Colangelo, isn’t a great movie. It’s OK. I wasn’t dancing my seat. But the last movie I reviewed here was The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. Little Accidents is a relief.
The two accidents of the title are a coal mine kerfluffle that causes several deaths and the disappearance of the son of coal mine owner Bill (Josh Lucas). The son, JT (Travis Tope), is kind of a huge dick, lording his social standing over Owen (Mud’s Jacob Lofland), whose working-class father died in the mine. But JT’s mom (Elizabeth Banks) is still upset about him disappearing into thin air, because that’s how parenthood works, I guess.
Rounding out the main cast is Chloë Sevigny as Owen’s stoic mother and Boyd Holbrook (the non-Charlie Hunnam Charlie Hunnam. No, not Garrett Hedlund. The other one.) as Amos, the tight-lipped sole survivor of the mining disaster. He knows that the mining company’s resonsible for all those deaths, but he ain’t talking. He wants all the lawyers and union reps, not to mention the people telling him to keep mum lest their small town’s main soure of employment has to shut down, to lay off his jock.
Spoiler alert—the audience never finds out exactly what went down in the mine. While that mystery goes unsolved, the other one was never a mystery to begin with, as we see what happens to JT fairly early on. Little Accidents is very low-key, focusing more on character relationships than the more high-energy “WE HAVE TO BRING THE GUILTY PARTIES TO JUSTICE!!!!!!” tone that another movie might have gone with. That’s won’t be for everybody, but I preferred it. Colangelo took the “show, don’t tell” screenwriting adage well to heart—instead of laying out who the guilty parties are and why the audience should hate them, she lets the evolution of this small town in the wake of its twin disasters proceed organically, at its own pace, refusing to place blame on any one person.
However, the burn is, at times, too slow. A lot of the characters, specifially Amos, are taciturn and outwardly unemotional in a way that I, being from the South, associate with good ole’ boy Southern men. Nobody talks about their feeeeeelings. You can tell there’s stuff bubbling underneath the surface there, but the script rarely puts on its scuba helmet and delves, to the point that I wanted to step through the movie screen and make him do something, for Chrissakes. Yell at someone! Skip town and go to clown college! Anything! Elizabeth Banks’ Diane is the most open character—she has the tendency to chatter that you’d expect from an archetypal high school cheerleader-turned-suburban wife and mother—but when she enters Amos’ orbit, even she clams up.
That reserve is likely a result of this being Colangelo’s first movie. If Little Accidents never feels quite comfortable in its own skin, it’s still evidence of a filmmaker who should have a lot to offer once she gets more secure in her (considerable) abilities.