By Matt Brunson
THAT EVENING SUN
DIRECTED BY Scott Teems
STARS Hal Holbrook, Ray McKinnon
Like the Jeff Bridges vehicle Crazy Heart (scheduled to open in Charlotte next week), That Evening Sun is one of those films that generates nearly all of its goodwill from a smashing central performance by a long-established veteran. Here, it's Hal Holbrook who shows up to demonstrate to Hollywood's young pups how it's done.
Holbrook plays Abner Meecham, an elderly Tennessee farmer who's been dumped into a nursing home by his well-meaning but insensitive son (Walt Goggins). Having none of it, Abner bolts from the facility and returns to the property that he's owned forever only to discover that his son has rented it to Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon), a loutish redneck Abner has long abhorred. Of course, Lonzo and his family meek wife Ludie (Carrie Preston) and restless daughter Pamela (Mia Wasikowska, soon to be seen as Tim Burton's Alice) have no intention of leaving, setting up a prickly, potentially violent feud between Abner and Lonzo.
Adapting William Gay's story "I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down," writer-director Scott Teems gives his actors plenty of room to roam: McKinnon manages to inject his crude character with flashes of civility, while Barry Corbin is memorable in his few scenes as Abner's longtime friend. Yet this is first and foremost a showcase for Holbrook, and it's a shame that he has to contend with some poor late-inning plotting specifically, an obvious climax and a cop-out coda. These flaws aren't enough to detract from his tough-minded performance, but I hate to see That Evening Sun go down in a burst of timidity.