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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Retro Review: Fireflies In The Garden (2008)

Fireflies In The Garden
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson, Hayden Panettiere, Carrie-Anne Moss, Julia Roberts, Ioan Gruffudd
Genre: Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $3.3 million

Plot: A tragic accident leaves a dysfunctional family without the one person they could count on to keep them together, forcing them to search for forgiveness and redemption

'Digging Its Own Grave Of The FireFlies'

As Michael and his sister, Ryne head back home to celebrate their mother's graduation, they are shocked to find out she has been killed in a car accident. As they begin to mourn, old wounds start to surface. It is also revealed that Michael's father is not all he seems and he takes great pride in physically abusing his son. Michael has support from his mother, Lisa. Sadly, however, Lisa still loves Charles and prepares to stand by him, even if it means putting up with his abuse, also. 

Julia Roberts plays the mother in flashback, yet she dies 10 minutes in a drama so lacking in conviction & punch, yet in its place is a maudlin direction that doesn't do the film any good. 

Fireflies In The Garden had been in production for 3 years, only it was put back and it didn't get unveiled until 2008 and when it did, there were only a handful of movie theaters in the US that screened it during its limited release. The glaring problems throughout this film are evident; it had too many flashback scenes that seem to cut and jump around, whilst the relationships between the siblings and relatives were not only not believable, but they were confusing to boot. The screenwriter didn't make these abundantly clear and easier for the audience to follow. 

I just didn't buy Ioan Gruffudd as Julia Roberts's onscreen lover, at all and he seems miscast. Nothing about him gave me the sense that he'd fall for Lisa. Ryan Reynolds, minus his Deadpool superhero costume, as much as he tries, didn't give a performance that showed how great an actor he can be, and alas he just didn't impart more of an emotional connection to his character, Michael. Young Michael gets to vent his anger when he sees his mother being mistreated, but adult Michael just lets emotions subside and chooses to not to take a stand. By the end of the film, it appears that Michael has not really progressed as a character; rather it seems he was the same as he was before during the beginning of the film. 

After the 40th minute mark, the film then descends into dreary, tedious fashion with some bland one-to-one conversations involving Michael and his sister and girlfriend. There seem to be plot holes within this film and it goes into so many directions, but most of the time it feels incomplete & empty. But for the flashback scenes, not one single element employed made much sense, nor made a tremendous amount of difference to the story. For a film inspired by Dennis Lee's real-life experiences, he played things far too safe and everything feels too wooden and static. The flashbacks seem to have a tad more potency than the rest of the film, with a then- heavily pregnant Julia Roberts in a small but not so sufficient role. She still does okay yet at the same time, from her usual standards, it is somewhat low-par. 

The film would have benefited from having a slightly longer run-time and cast members in Julia Roberts were given more scenes to work with. Despite its intentions, Fireflies in the Garden's tone just isn't potent enough to make such a strong impact a film like this needed & any attachment that I wanted to feel for the characters, goes completely astray. 

Towards the end, I just didn't care for this film. 


Pros +

- Impressive ensemble casting 

- Okay performances by Ryan Reynolds and Julia Roberts

Cons -

- Julia Roberts is only in like 2 or 3 brief scenes

- Not enough story development 

- No emotional attachment felt towards the characters of whom don't seem to grow or develop well

- Has some story twists of a soap opera, but virtually none of the fireworks to go with it

Final Verdict:

For Julia Roberts fans, there just isn't enough of her here to justify a purchase, nor is it worth seeing. Amicable performances at best, but for me, as a film, it's just not that worthwhile that is considered to be memorable. 

Unlike Julia Roberts's 1989's Steel Magnolias, another film whereby her character dies, Fireflies In The Garden has absolutely none of its charm, sincerity, and when it tries to come across as being meaningful, it falls way short of the mark. 

Uneven, verbose & scattered with an unsatisfying script, despite Ryan Reynolds and Julia, it's just not a movie that would have turned heads at the box office, had it came out. Watching this, it shows, so much so Dennis Lee's approach is just not reactionary to lend any emotional profoundness that Fireflies In The Garden truly could have had more of. 

Sadly, this is a dud in Julia Roberts's filmography. 


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