Drunkboat -- Film Review

A dull domestic drama that only a hometown audience could love.

CHICAGO — Awash with a leaky plot and a heavy ballast of character cargo, Bob Meyer’s "Drunkboat" is unlikely to navigate beyond its port-of-call here at the 46th Chicago International Film Festival.

Decked out with an auspicious cast — John Malkovich, John Goodman, Dana Delany — it is a slight and cloyingly upbeat domestic drama.

On this listless vessel, Malkovich speaks softly and cryptically. He plays Mort, a former Vietnam vet and recovering alcoholic who shows up one day on the suburban stoop of his sister (Dana Delany). Mort inveigles his way into her nondescript abode, which also includes a sweet-tempered teenaged boy, Abe (Jacob Zachar). Abe smiles a lot and dreams of sailing through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and beyond.

A semblance of a plot surfaces thanks to some cross-cutting to a salvage-yard rodent, Fletcher (John Goodman), who chisels away at a decrepit boat in the hope of unloading it on an unsuspecting land-lubber. The hard-drinking Fletch zeros in on honorable Abe as his prime sucker. His scummy course is charted with the ploy of knocking Mort off the wagon so that he can co-sign for the underage teen.

Drunkboat sports an attractive, whimsical nature and quixotic spirit, but it’s undercut by a thin script. The dialogue of writers Meyer and Randy Buescher is dull and gimmicky. Goodman belches out a string of cliche lines with sing-song cadence, which very quickly becomes annoying. Remarkably, Malkovich oozes out the script’s gelatinous glop of banter in such a serene manner that we don’t hear it.

Delany is spared the drivel, but her tiny part is so underwritten that she basically just walks through — from the living room to the kitchen.

Technical credits are serviceable, highlighted by the aptly dowdy duds of lower-middle-class Midwesterners as culled by costume designer Susan Kaufmann.

Venue: Chicago International Film Festival
Production: Drunkboat Chicago, Left Bank Films
Cast: John Malkovich, John Goodman, Dana Delany, Jacob Zachar
Director: Bob Meyer
Screenwriters: Bob Meyer, Randy Buescher
Producers: Steven A. Jones, John Malkovich, Russell Smith, Daniel J. Walker
Director of photography: Lisa Rinzler
Production designer: Richard Hoover
Music editor: Ronald J. Webb
Costume designer: Susan Kaufmann
Editors: Mario Battistel, Michael Rafferty
No rating, 98 minutes

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