Charlie St. Cloud Review
Charlie St. Cloud looked to be a melodramatic failure of epic proportions. Just take one look at the tagline on the poster (“Life is for Living” ... brilliant) with the photo of Zac Efron and his thousand-yard stare and you get the picture.
Charlie St. Cloud is similar to Angelina Jolie’s latest film Salt in that they are two competently made pictures of stories we’ve seen many times in other far greater films. Charlie (Efron) is your average high school senior. Well, average in the sense that he’s a sailing champion with a scholarship to Stanford and could grace the cover of GQ magazine. His kid brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) loves sailing, loves the Red Sox, and loves Charlie. Long story short, Sam dies. Cut to five years later and Chuck has put his dreams on hold; he now works in the same graveyard where his brother is buried and simply exists to meet Sam’s ghost in the forest everyday to play catch with him. Will he ever learn to move on and enjoy life again?
You know where this story ends up, the only question is over whether the journey was worth it. In the eyes of this beholder, yes and no. Kudos to Efron; Chuck is in every scene, so he shouldered a huge weight, and his range was impressive: Rage, despondence, sadness. He actually did quite well with some very emotional scenes.
The problem is not with his skills as an actor, but with the fact that his appearance just isn’t believable for an everyman. He works at a graveyard, lives in a cabin in Podunktown, Oregon and he’s reclusive -- yet he looks like a lost Abercrombie & Fitch model, always wearing a shirt one size too small and spending as much on hair products as he does his rent. Just check out his hair when he’s in an ambulance following a devastating car crash. It’s perfect. Somebody needs to have a talk with the hair and wardrobe folk. He looks like a mannequin and it’s sad because it undermines his performance.
The other actor that most impresses is little Charlie Tahan as little brother Sam. He deftly captures the image of that kid many of us once were: a sibling that idolizes their older brother and feels a twinge of cool when he uses a curse word. Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta are two excellent actors who are given essentially throwaway roles as a paramedic and Efron’s mother. It’s unfortunate they don’t have more to do here.
As far as the writing goes, for every insightful e.e. cummings quote said there’s about twelve clichéd scenes. How many times have we seen a depressed character sitting at a table alone with an almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels? Or an enraged character ripping all his stuff off his walls and throwing it on the floor? It’s also annoying when a screenwriter opens a book of quotes, flips to the section that follows along with their theme and drops one into the screenplay to add "poignancy."
Here is a movie that’s adequately directed, poorly written, and decently performed. Mix it all together and it’s perfectly average. For those who love Efron, they will enjoy his performance and the wet white undershirts that cling to him. For the rest, it will likely be forgotten by the time you’ve reached your car.
Charlie St. Cloud
Directed by Burr Steers
Written by Craig Pierce and Louis Pollack (screenplay), Ben Sherwood (novel)
Starring: Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger