The story behind this movie centers on Mort Gleason (John Malkovich). Mort is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get his life back on track. The thing of it is that he still faces adversity as neither his (seeming) sister believes in him at first. Nor does her son, Abe (Jacob Zachar). Abe is a typical teenage boy. He thinks he knows everything. And thanks to Abe's plot to buy a boat from the unscrupulous Mr. Fletcher (John Goodman), Abe almost loses his way as he attempts to recover from his past. This is where things get just a tiny bit dicey. One can't help but scratch one's head in bewilderment at Abe's plan. Abe could have done any number of plans. But buying a boat just seems odd. But perhaps that could have been part of his character. Abe was just a teenager. So he was just doing something dumb and thoughtless like any other teenager. It doesn't have to make sense, as little of what the teenage mind does makes much sense. So keeping this in mind, those critics who have panned the movie for this quirkiness would be well served to go back and watch it again. Perhaps understanding this would give said critics a different view of things.
The movie's central plot is really underrated. It obviously hasn't gotten the credit which it deserves. Malkovich's portrayal of mort is expert to say the least. It's his acting that anchors (no pun intended) this story. The irony is that while it's his acting that anchors the movie, John Goodman is billed as one of the movie's stars. The reality is that as amazing an actor as Goodman is, he's more or less just a supporting actor to Malkovich. In his own right though, Goodman's acting is equally impressive. It gives Malkovich something off of which he can bounce his lines and character. The pair is seen together in one scene near the story's end. But that one scene is powerful in itself. Thanks to Mr. Fletcher tempting Mort with alcohol and Abe verbally abusing him, audiences see Mort at his weakest and most innocent moment. It makes him a fully sympathetic character for audiences. And it makes Mr. Fletcher that much more despicable of a human being. This scene is not one of those over the top moments either. It's just enough to keep audiences watching to see what will happen. And it will make the movie's final moments all the more moving.
Drunkboat clocks in at just under two hours. In that time, Mort's attempt to get his life back on track will keep audiences watching without even once checking the time. Malkovich's portrayal of Mort will make any viewer want to cheer for him as he shows that he is really making an attempt to get his life right. The relationship that he builds with Abe makes the story even more powerful. While other critics have obviously had their say on this work, those who go into this movie with an open mind will hopefully see it for the moving story that it is and that it truly is just as good as any film made by any major studio. It's proof that even in the twenty-first century, indie flicks are just as valid as anything else that's out there.
On the other hand, nice minimalist score. Reminded me of The Kingdom in places.
Mort (John Malkovich) is an aging alcoholic, living in a loft above the bar where he works and drinks, often both at once. One day, an alcohol salesman and con artist named Fletcher (John Goodman) visits the bar, with a young hitchhiker in tow. Mort and the young man get caught up in an argument about broken merchandise between Fletcher and the bar owner. The young man gets his retainer knocked out. Mort gathers it, before the bar owner knocks him out and dumps him in the alley like so much garbage.
Some time later, Mort goes to his sister Eileen's (Dana Delany) house. He receives a warm reception from his teenage nephew Abe (Jacob Zachar), and a cold one from Eileen, who offers him a place to stay for awhile, but warns him that one drink and he's gone. Mort relates that he's seen her errant son "Moo" (Steve Haggard)--the young hitchhiker from the bar.
Abe has fantasies about buying a sailboat and sailing the Great Lakes and beyond, which he relates to his friend Dave (Brian Deneen). But there's a catch; he needs an adult's signature. Abe's plan is to wait until his mother is gone, and coerce his uncle Mort into signing for him.
This leads up to the best scene in the film, where Mort must make a responsible decision as an adult. It doesn't help that the boat salesman is Fletch, who has a case of whiskey with him, and the boat is dangerously in ill-repair. The ending has an unexpectedly funny payoff, but getting to the third act is a dull and tedious journey.
Drunkboat spends far too much time on Fletcher and his partner Morley (Jim Ortlieb), who sit around and shoot the breeze. How compelling. Their scenes never go anywhere and never pay off. Time spent with Fletcher is redundant; we get that he's slimy from his first two scenes. The third scene where he gives his boat a cosmetic makeover solidifies that and serves the plot. The rest of his scenes is well-acted filler. There's a subplot about Morley's son who "is making a movie without a camera." This is never explained, and never goes anywhere either.
Abe isn't developed beyond his wide-eyed obsession about his boat. I never bought into him as a character. His preoccupation with adventure, his excited reference to a toy museum, and deference to adults suggests a young boy rather than a mid-adolescent, and there's no sign of interest in the opposite sex. His friend Dave is a dull, undeveloped foil, whose sole function is to listen to Abe and nod in comprehension.
Malkovich and Goodman give fine performances, and again, the film has one leaving the theater in some good humor. But that doesn't make it a good film. The bulk of the characters are shallow, most of the scenes are dull, and it doesn't have much to say. The talent is all onscreen, and shows up only fitfully in the screenplay.