Run & Jump
Runs Fri., Feb. 21–Thurs., Feb. 27 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 105 minutes.
The stink of MacGruber had pretty well cleared by the time Will Forte began racking up praise, all of it deserved, for his supporting role in Nebraska. Who knew the guy could act? Well, credit Irish writer/director Steph Green for making at least part of the discovery before Alexander Payne. Forte plays fish-out-of-water American neurologist Ted, who’s staying with a rural Irish family to study its stroke-damaged patriarch, woodworker Conor (Edward MacLiam). After a coma and months in rehab, Conor returns as a sullen, withdrawn presence in the cheerfully disordered cottage also inhabited by a cute little daughter, a teenage son, and his overtaxed wife Vanetia (Maxine Peake). Vanetia can barely keep command over this unruly household, and has little patience for the rather clinical Dr. Ted and his constant videotaping. It’s like having a spy in their home.
Conor has no interest in sex, while the vivacious, flame-haired Vanetia has plenty of life in her, so the romantic tension to this seriocom is fairly clear. However, Green is rather too shy about carrying things through to their logical conclusion. Her script (with Ailbhe Keogan) and direction tend to hang back, rather like Dr. Ted—observing more than stirring things up. Ted and Vanetia may kiss and share a toke, but Green doesn’t want to destroy this happy home. Meanwhile, Conor’s cranial confusion only results in predictable outbursts; his recovery—if even possible—ought to be of more dramatic interest here. Then there’s the matter of son Lenny (Brendan Morris) being bullied, for just the reasons you’d expect.
Rather too genial for its own good, Run & Jump treats all its characters fairly, never letting them drive into the ditch or do anything self-destructive. Recall the moment in Nebraska when Forte’s put-upon son starts walking out the bar where Stacy Keach’s character has just humiliated his father (Bruce Dern): Forte pauses, thinks about it, then turns around to sock that mean old SOB in the face. No equivalent punches are thrown in Run & Jump.