The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Troubled family members healing old wounds by taking tense road trips together is not a new concept in movies, but Boundaries executes the slightly tired formula pretty well. Even if you can guess where the plot is going before it gets there and you will the quality of the performances and the meaningfulness of the insights are more than enough to keep you hooked. Writer/director Shana Feste (Country Strong) has made a solidly entertaining family dramedy.

Vera Farmiga stars as Laura Jaconi, a single mother whose troubled son Henry (Lewis MacDougall from A Monster Calls) gets expelled from school. She needs to get him into an alternative school, but can't afford it. Laura's only option is to turn to her semi-estranged father Jack (Christopher Plummer). As it turns out, he's just been kicked out of his nursing home for growing and selling marijuana. They strike up a deal in which Laura will drive him to the home of her sister in California, where he'll live, and he will pay for Henry's education.

A number of complications arise while the family is on the road. Jack proves to be something of a bad influence on his grandson, there's a reunion with Henry's absentee dad Leonard (Bobby Cannavale), and, of course, old tensions rise to the surface. The section with Laura's ex is particularly interesting, because we can sense how dysfunctional their relationship was, and how Leonard remains capable of pushing her buttons, for better or worse.

The title Boundaries is meant to be ironic, since the characters have no boundaries. They do not operate within the parameters of how family members typically interact. They do not hold back their words, nor do they modulate their behavior. Each of them is essentially in it for themselves. It's not a conscious choice. It's been handed down through the family, and as an adult, Laura has clearly gravitated toward people who behave similarly.

Watching this dynamic play out in different ways between different combinations of characters gives Boundaries its sting. The film has much to say about the destructive nature of refusing to stay within the lines of decorum in family relationships, as well as the need for individuals to learn how to maintain a healthy emotional perspective with their relatives. Odds are that there's something in here you'll be able to relate to.

Vera Farmiga is typically excellent in the lead role, capturing the way Laura is guilty of the exact same things she's critical of in others. In her hands, the inevitable awakening feels authentic; we truly believe that Laura grows during the trip. Christopher Plummer is every bit her equal, giving Jack a self-satisfied rebellious streak. The actor conveys how this weed-dealing senior citizen learns to assess the way he's treated his own offspring.

A few moments in Boundaries feel a bit forced, most notably an incredibly dopey scene in which Jack pays a visit to an old friend (played by Peter Fonda). What happens is out of place with the tone of everything else. A few minor missteps like that aside, though, the movie is often funny and even more often accurate in its depiction of familial enmeshment.

( out of four)

Boundaries is rated R for drug material, language, some sexual references and nude sketches. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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