YOSEMITE

Story2Three kids who share the same 5th grade classroom have portentous coming-of-age adventures vaguely connected to the growing presence of mountain lions on the outskirts of their upscale suburban community.

OK, I get it: Boys will be boys… And filmmaker Gabrielle Demeestere–who both wrote and directed a screenplay based on stories by James Franco–doesn’t need permission from me to make a film with almost no women in it…

But me? I was bored to death. (JLH: 3/5)

Review by FF2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

In the opening moments of Yosemite, a National Public Radio host–in an unmistakably NPR voice–introduces a story about mountain lions. It seems the mountain lion population in the western USA–once thought close to extinction–has come roaring back, endangering people who have built homes close to their habitat.

And so, the air is filled with foreboding as the driver of the car–a man named “Phil” who is played by one-time heart throb James Franco–heads off for a hike in Yosemite National Park with his young son “Alex” (Troy Tinnirello) and his somewhat older son “Chris” (Everett Meckler).

But surprise! Just when we start to care about Alex, Chris, and Phil, the screen goes black, and a new story begins–this time about a kid named “Joe” (Alec Mansky)–and then just when that one starts to matter, the screen goes black again before a third story begins–this one about a kid named “Ted” (Calum John). 

It turns out that the unifying element in the screenplay–written and directed by Gabrielle Demeestere based on short stories by James Franco–is a 5th grade classroom where the three boys–Chris, Joe and Ted–spend their mundane hours in between portentous coming-of-age adventures… Oy! Story3

Although the first story has some lovely moments which allow James Franco to play a grown-up man rather than an arrested adolescent, the best story is the second one about Joe. Alec Mansky is a wonderfully expressive child actor, and he made me care about this kid who is trying so hard to process the sudden illness and death of his younger brother. (Sorry, no mountain lions required.)

Henry Hopper also does a great job as a guy who befriends Joe, even though Demeestere never bothers to close the loop. (Why does this older guy invite a mini-sad sack into his life? No clue!)

But by the third story, I was out of patience. Already thwarted twice, I had no energy left to invest in a third set of characters even when I saw the possibility of some overlap.

James Franco is almost forty years old now, and although he’s still very handsome, he is no longer the heart throb of days gone by. So I wish him all best as he continues to find himself as an artist. And I also think it’s great that he’s investing some of his power in developing new talent.  In addition to playing Phil, Franco also served as one of Yosemite’s Executive Producers and I doubt Demeestere could have pulled this film off without Franco playing the three critical roles of author, producer, and [nominal] star.

So yes, I am applauding in principle… But applauding this film? Sorry, no 🙁

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (1/5/15)

Story1

Top Photo: Alec Mansky as “Joe.”

Middle Photo: Joe, Chris, and Ted (Calum John) head off in search of the mountain lion… (Click on photo & you will see that Ted is holding a gun. Oy!)

Bottom Photo (from left): Troy Tinnirello as “Alex,” James Franco as “Phil,” and Everett Meckler as “Chris.”

Photo Credits: Monterey Media

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