X-Files west

Falcon Song soars on 1980s-style wings

| March 27, 2014

Let's say that if you saw Karate Kid today, you'd argue against reason it holds up. Let's also say you love/hate Andie McDowell so much, you're vaguely interested in her daughter, the Miss Golden Globe of 2012. Maybe you also found parts of Black Swan funny. Like giggling-in-church funny. Like, better leave and laugh all the way to the loo because you're starting to call attention to yourself. I mean, that movie was so hilarious. With the feathers and whatnot.

Maybe that last one's just me. If the other two are kind of true and you also just love you some familiar landscapes, a movie like Falcon Song doesn't come around all that often and you better make plans.

The official description for the film calls it a "1980s-style contemporary western in which a guitar-playing drifter helps a rancher's granddaughter find her true calling." But I gotta be honest. A more accurate one might be, "Footloose 'X-Files' set in Montana."

Rainey Qualley, who spent her early years up the Ninemile with parents McDowell and former model Paul Qualley, stars as the granddaughter. Her true calling? Well, I don't want to spoil it much, but it involves dancing in a crushed-velvet cape and push-up bodysuit and it's where the "X-Files" stuff comes in. So there's that.

Her true calling comes out later, after the guitar-playing drifter (Gabriel Sunday) gets in a fight over his amp, gets a job in the oil fields, gets fired from the job in the oil fields and then gets a somewhat-implausible offer to couch-surf at a mansion in town. This all happens within the first 10 minutes.

"Town" looks strangely like Big Timber, which it is. This is where the sparkly Free Masons enter the picture, preceded by some '80s-style synth. Oh, not really the Masons. Here it's the "Preservation Society," where old ranchers meet in the dark, dressing fancy, to talk about how the kids are giving antacids to bluebirds to make them blow up. And, also, developers are wiping out whole counties and flushing the old ways down the toilet.

“I see a future where mixtapes no longer exist.”
  • “I see a future where mixtapes no longer exist.”

Chief bad-guy developer Caspian—his frenemies call him Cap—will be familiar to the Karate Kid defenders. He was Martin Kove, the evil sensei from those movies, and almost reprises his role here, only with better shirts.

His is the mansion where the drifter is staying. His son is the one engaged to the hot ranch girl. Her granddad won't sell to the evil sensei/developer. And, thus, you have a plot.

The plot, though, is not what's driving this movie. Style is. The director and co-writer, Jason Brown, is going for not just a look of an era, but the feeling of the movies that came out of it—what film-y types like himself call the '80s dream factory. Footloose is one. Gremlins, which Brown mentions as an inspiration, is another. Mannequin comes to mind, too.

Evoking and updating that style of movie is done here with a lot of respect and complexity. No leg warmers. Not a Rubik's Cube in sight. It's less hot pink, more magical realism. Also, the lighting is incredible. It's lit the way '80s movies were lit. Subtle, for sure, but noticeable. Almost optimistic.

Unfortunately, what's lost in all that attention to lighting and look and feeling is the connective tissue between the scenes. The other writer on the movie, Michelle Poteet Lisanti, has a background writing soap-opera scripts. That's not something you need to know because you can tell. Each scene plays out like an enclosed space without windows or doors to the next one. Character behaviors are accepted without ever being established. At one point, Qualley's granddaughter character says to Sunday's drifter character, "Everybody knows you're a weirdo." Well, no, not really. He's a drifter, remember? Everybody just met him.

Suspension of belief, an appreciation for camp (not the kind with cowboy coffee) and some passing knowledge of '80s movies beyond the John Hughes hits—they're all necessary to really get Falcon Song. But even if you don't really get it, guess what? Montana south of Billings is just as pretty as you think it should be on the big screen.

Falcon Song screens at the Roxy Fri., March 28, through Sun., March 30, at 7 and 9 PM.

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