film review *1/2: ...Don...t Come Knocking... on This Movie
Good Acting Can...t Save a Slow and Aimless Plot
By Yong-yi Zhu
Don’t Come Knocking
Directed by Wim Wenders
Written by Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders
Starring Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange
Where is Howard? Who is Howard?
That’s the question this entire film tries to answer. Not necessarily where he is physically or who he is exactly, but rather how Howard fits into the greater reality.
The movie is focused on Western movie star Howard Spence (Sam Shepard). He leaves the set of his latest film production and simply runs away without explaining to anyone. He gets rid of his clothing, his credit cards, his cell phone, and any way for someone to trace him. Howard runs to his mother (Eva Marie Saint), whom he hasn’t seen in thirty years, for sanctuary from the reality that he has established for himself.
Despite his celebrity, Howard hasn’t been doing so well — his onetime fame has been replace with infamy as his life has filled with drugs, alcohol, sex, and arrests. He even tries to find Doreen (Jessica Lange), a women of his past, just to reconcile with her.
The movie, however, doubts Howards ability to change: how will he come to terms with himself when he is so easily drawn into the world of depravity? Will the people around him suddenly approve of him simply because he wants to improve? Will the movie producers find him and drag him back into the world he is desperately trying to leave?
Howard’s world could not have been created without a group of talented actors. This cast may not be terribly famous, but that’s the whole point of the movie: small-town people leading small-town lives. In fact, the acting is probably the strongest asset of the film.
Sam Shepard does an excellent job as someone trying to rediscover himself, exhibiting a subtle gentleness that makes you believe he truly wants to be a better man. On top of that, he delivers all of his lines with such conviction he becomes Howard Spence. That gentleness, however, makes it impossible to believe that Howard could have, at any point, done any of the evil things he runs from.
Jessica Lange’s performance screams for an Oscar nomination. She is the perfect woman for her role, as you forget she is acting — her emotions are conveyed powerfully and you believe she feels the pains and the pleasures of her character.
Even with these talented actors, the movie still leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps the lack of dialogue and quiet music are used to convey the contemplative nature of the film, but it also makes parts drag on.
On top of that, it’s disjoint; it’s not all about Howard’s reconciliation, because there’s also a man from the movie studios (Tim Roth) searching for the runaway movie star. He is not only eccentric beyond belief, but brings comic relief that just doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. In the end, despite the good acting and great music, the film lacks cohesion and direction.