It is difficult to tell where Jeff Barry’s film lies on the spectrum of indie film to commercial feature, but rest assured that Occupy, Texas is a well-told tale which, whilst made on only a £200,000 budget, is certainly a professional feature that warms the heart.
Written by and starring Gene Gallerano, the plot follows a 20-something protester – Beau Baker – who is told by his uncle that his estranged parents are dead. He flies back to his home state to look after his two sisters: the sarky 17-year-old Claire and the younger, more sympathetic Arden, in a coming-of-age story about someone that should be old enough to know better.
“a professional feature that warms the heart”
Essentially, Beau is a Dewey Finn-style character, and luckily the allusions to School of Rock don’t end there. Gallerano’s performance is excellent as the loveable slacker, with some equally deft lines to compliment his lackadaisical attitude. The supporting cast, including Roz from Frasier (Peri Gilpin), create a believably dysfunctional family that wishes to bond in their time of grief; in particular, newcomer Catherine Elvir is a breath of fresh air as Arden, the sister closest to Beau, and is a perfectly typical teenager, providing many tender comic moments.
Texas is captured perfectly by Barry with repeated shots of big cars and big houses to rival the initial hustle-and-bustle of New York in the opening few minutes. A frame with the Texan flag and ‘The Bakers Were Here’ towards the end of the movie was also a lovely touch. However, the film was a toss-up between The Royal Tenenbaums* and Meet the Fockers in terms of its style; at times it had stills worthy of an edgy flick (such as a wide-frame shot of the living room with Beau and Claire staring at each other from opposite ends), but it unfortunately fell into cliché with a gooey ‘boy-done-good’ act at the end. However, the whole film was full of well-deserved laughs and the gratifying ‘happy families’ conclusion was necessary to round off Beau’s rise to maturity.
Occupy, Texas was a tad inconsistent, and whilst not resurrecting a well-worn genre, Gallerano’s performance and fairly solid script were essential in making Barry’s directorial debut one that shouldn’t disappoint its audience. It is a family-based comedy that hits many of the right notes. Considering that the young talent on display made the wholly surprisingly cheap film look worthy of Hollywood, it will be fantastic to see where Barry, Gallerano, and their promising cast go from here.
*We acknowledge that another writer has drawn comparisons with The Royal Tenenbaums for a different film. I suppose we just collectively seem to like Wes Anderson a lot. Then again, at an independent film festival: “what else?” (Another shameless Jack Black reference there too. Apologies).
Image: Jeff Barry