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For her directorial/screenwriting debut, actress Famke Janssen has devised a tale about an itinerant con artist and her 10-year-old son that she could well have also starred in. Unfortunately, the alternately melodramatic and comic Bringing Up Bobby fails to impress, despite a showy turn by Milla Jovovich in a sharp departure from her usual zombie butt-kicking in the Resident Evil series.
The actress–sporting a less than convincing Ukrainian accent despite her lineage–plays Olive, who has arrived in Oklahoma with her titular son (Spencer List) after previous run-ins with the law in Kansas City. She wastes no time engaging in various larcenies–including stealing a car, shoplifting and bilking an insurance company–all with the willing complicity of her beloved child who delights in her criminal antics.
But eventually both mother and son’s behavior catches up with them, and when Olive winds up in the slammer Bobby is taken in a prosperous couple (Bill Pullman, Marcia Cross) who have been left childless after the death of their own son. Cue the violin strings as the doting mother is forced to confront the consequences of her behavior and decide whether to make the ultimate sacrifice for her child’s sake.
The heavy-handed plot contrivances would go down a lot more easily if the central characters were remotely engaging, but the pair doesn’t exactly erase memories of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon. Their oh-so-close relationship is less touching than creepy, with her persistent con artistry and his enthusiastic juvenile delinquency rendering them far more unsympathetic than the filmmaker clearly intended.
Although looking stunning in a variety of slinky vintage outfits, Jovovich doesn’t bring the necessary shadings to her role, and child actor List has apparently been advised to be as annoying as possible. Pullman and Cross fare better as the kindly adoptive parents, and Rory Cochrane makes a strong impression as Olive’s sleazy boyfriend and partner in crime.
Opens Sept. 28 (Monterey Media)
Production: Dutch Tilt Film
CAST: Milla Jovovich, Bill Pullman, Marcia Cross, Rory Cochrane, Spencer List
Director/screenwriter: Famke Janssen
Producers: Famke Janssen, Sofia Sondervan
Executive producers: Chad Burris, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross
Director of photography: Guido Van Gennep
Editor: Job Terburg
Production designer: Dina Goldman
Costume designer: Hala Bahmet
Composer: Junkie XL
Rated PG-13, 95 min.
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