Overview: A sick, housebound boy befriends a girl next door and finds out his parents are not the people he thought they were. 2013; IFC Midnight; NR; 104 minutes.
Ailing: When I finished watching The Harvest, I was almost certain that it was directed by a first-timer. I came to find out that The Harvest was directed by John McNaughton, the man behind Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, who has numerous directorial credits under his belt. I could forgive a first-time or second-time director, refrain from being overly harsh, but as a product of someone with experience, The Harvest is absolutely unforgivable. The film begins with a cold open that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film and from the perspective of someone who never shows up again. From there, the story moves into a territory that’s so overly sentimental and dated that it feels like an early ’90s made-for-TV movie. The child-actors, Charlie Tahan and Natasha Calis, are actually decent in their respective roles of Andy and Maryann, but they are made to utter words that no modern teenager would ever say. Upon first meeting each other and being in each other’s presence for all of about two minutes there’s an exchange of “you’re my first friend” and “I guess you’re my first friend, too.” The rest of the cast is made up of a scenery-chewing Samantha Morton, an aimless Michael Shannon, and a Peter Fonda who’s looking for his paycheck.
Organ Failure: Once the friendship between Andy and Maryann is established, there’s a mid-film “twist” which reveals that the film is about organ harvesting, which is pretty clear from the get go. The film treats its audience like idiots because it repeatedly draws attention to corn growing in front of the Andy’s window because corn+harvest=misdirection. The organ harvesting element and how it’s used is actually an interesting concept, but it never gels with the film as a whole because the script uses children’s logic for adult situations. It’s as if a Disney Original Movie from the ’90s was shoved inside a Lifetime Movie but still tries to convince viewers it’s for adults.
Screenwriter Stephen Lancellotti does his best to make good actors as useless as possible by ignoring character motivation and having them spout ill-conceived lines. Michael Shannon, who was the reason behind me watching this movie, gets away relatively unscathed. He disappears for long stretches of time, and his role is pretty mundane, which is a hell of a waste. Samantha Morton, however, goes to Mommie Dearest levels of camp that don’t fit in with anyone else in the movie. It’s a comically, cringe-worthy performance filled with shouting and uncontrollable maudlin sobs that seem to crescendo before becoming even more exaggerated. After discovering that Andy snuck outside to play baseball with Maryann, a fury-filled Morton screams “…you want to play baseball! You want to play baseball!” before smashing the TV with said baseball.
Pull the Cord: Imagine if the Hallmark Channel made a Halloween special and Michael Shannon just happened to walk onto the set and decided to say a few lines while coming and going as he pleased. I’m actually a little awestruck at how bad this was. At the end of the film, Peter Fonda utters the words “far out,” and I thought this movie could only get worse if those were the last lines of the film. As it would turned out, they were.