|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
|Things That Hang from Trees
Cooper Musgrove as Tommy
Wheeler in Things That Hang
From Trees, Ido Mizrahy,
2006, USA; 98 min.
While it ostensibly is set in 1969 in St. Augustine, Florida, Things That Hang From
Trees has the look and feel of a movie from the previous decade. Around the town there
are vestiges of Jim Crow laws with signs proclaiming "Whites Only." The only nod to
progress is the risqué business of Connie Mae Wheeler (a fine Deborah Kara Unger) who
owns and operates a boutique selling negligees and other assorted bedroom supplies.
Connie Mae also serves as a human mannequin, provocatively posing in the shop's window
and modeling some of her latest acquisitions. This doesn't sit too well with George Burgess
(Daniel von Bargen), the barber who owns the shop next door. He's something of a religious
extremist who is both repulsed by and attracted to Connie Mae's overt sexuality.
The film, though, centers on Connie Mae's sensitive son Tommy (portrayed by
Cooper Musgrove). Tommy is bullied by two older boys and is watched over by the local
town drunk (Peter Gerety), a former baseball player now homeless and sleeping outside
the local diner. That diner is owned and operated by Miss Millie (Laila Robins), a
no-nonsense woman slightly hardened by her circumstances.
There's a Southern Gothic atmosphere at work in Anthony Louis Tordini's script
which he adapted from his own novella that was published under the pen name T.A. Louis.
Things That Hang From Trees is full of portentous symbols and its structure suffers a bit
from flashbacks that are only seen in snippets at a time.
There are some nice scenes and the actors (most of whom are theater trained) offer
strong characterizations. In addition to the aforementioned cast, note should be made of
Ray McKinnon as Tommy Sr., Marylouise Burke as the lighthouse keeper and Jason
Antoon as the local pharmacist.
Things That Hang From Trees is deliberately paced under the direction of debut
filmmaker Ido Mizrahy. It is a film that probably won't appeal to a wide audience but those
who make the effort will be rewarded.