Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bosom Buddies: "Across the Moon" (1995)

Christina Applegate and Elizabeth Pena are desert bound in a quirky comedy that often crosses into already explored territory.

Richie (the late Tony Fields in his last film) and Lyle (Peter Berg) land in prison after a drug deal gone wrong. They leave behind their respective women, Carmen (Elizabeth Pena) and Kathy (Christina Applegate), and Carmen's son Paco (Michael Aniel Mundra). The men are sentenced to a state pen in the middle of the California desert, and the two women decide to move down there to be closer to their men.

The duo moves into a dilapidated trailer in the middle of nowhere. Kathy is a former Beverly Hills brat, and Carmen has seen tougher times, so the women butt heads often in a bit of class warfare. They are starving and run out of money, and decide to become hookers. Instead, they meet Jim (James Remar), who gets them set up at jobs in the local town.

In the desert, Paco begins skipping school in order to hang around with Frank (Michael McKean), a big cat trainer down on his luck. Jim lives in an abandoned Hollywood western set, and sees Barney (Burgess Meredith), an old prospector.

Eventually, all of these misfits' lives cross, as Frank finds himself rustling a cowboy's (Jack Nance) cattle, and Paco witnesses a murder. He also finds a gold mine, thanks to Barney. Kathy marries Lyle in prison, but they can never seem to get the conjugal visit honeymoon right, and a frustrated Carmen falls for Jim but still loves Richie. The final scenes tie up the entire film's ensemble in one fail swoop.

Despite the video cover art, this is not "Thelma and Louise." The two actresses are pretty, and do drive around the desert in a convertible, but that is the end of the similarities. The cast of characters are all quirky, but the screenwriter does not overload his story with too many quirky characters.

The actors and actresses all do good work, although no one really breaks out and makes the film their own. Scenes go on, everyone is likable and you hope they do well, but the film cannot shake its small trappings. The entire proceedings happen, but do not challenge the audience. Director Gottlieb has some lovely shots, including one where Frank and his lion are silhouetted against a sunset, but the scene before that is an awkwardly played vignette in which Carmen tries to spank Paco for skipping school and being held back.

"Across the Moon" is as innocuous as its title. The cast tries to convince the viewer that desert living is next to paradise, but the high quirk factor and leisurely pacing makes me want to stay in the great plains.

There are some good scenes, but the film plays it safe when it comes to laughs or plot. "Across the Moon" is strictly average fare, just a typical "independent film" that everyone could add to their resume. (* * *) out of five stars.