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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Winter Passing

Review by Kevin Crossman

Unlike Frat Pack counterparts Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell never had the opportunity to act in dramas before becoming a comedy superstar. Winter Passing provides such a vehicle, though Will's role is a supporting one. Can Will, and the movie, deliver the goods?

Struggling and disaffected New York actress Reese Holden (Zooey Deschanel, Elf) has been offered a small fortune by a book editor (Amy Madigan) if she can secure for publication the love letters that her father (Ed Harris), a reclusive novelist, wrote to her mother, who has since passed away. Returning to Michigan, Reese finds that ex-grad student Shelley (Amelia Warner) and would-be musician Corbit (Ferrell) have moved in with her father, who cares more about his new friends than he does about his own health and well-being.

Thus begins a series of exploratory scenes where Reese learns about her parents, one tiny nugget at time. Her father's heavy drinking and poor health seem to be ignored by everyone, and it's unclear of the motivations of Shelley and Corbit. Of course, the movie opens with several scenes where Reese is shown to have an unhealthy mental and emotional outlook, so her character doesn't move forward much either. Slowly, too slowly, we learn about the characters and what drives them. Then, the movie ends on an up note by resolving things in a fairly believable fashion.

Did we mention this movie is slow? It's disturbing too, featuring two animal death scenes that may deeply haunt some viewers. And fans of Will Ferrell's typical fast-paced comedies may not have much to be entertained by. One redeeming feature is that the acting is top-notch all around. Deschanel is particularly effective and in many ways paints a engaging character who's mystery some may find extremely fascinating. Unfortunately, writer-director Adam Rapp provides no great message to take away from this movie and the resolution is a bit simple given the running length of the film and time the viewer invests.

Will Ferrell didn't make me laugh once. That's at once a compliment, since he's not trying to make you laugh, but also part of the problem. The movie is so gloomy and depressing, a little levity could have helped. Some of Will's scenes are intended to make us smile at the character or the situation, including a open-mic rendition of The Eagles' "I Can't Tell You Why," but unfortunately the smile never really appeared for me.