Piñatas are fun. They’re stuffed to the brim with treats, and when they’ve been smacked around a few times out comes the goodies. They are fragile enough so that they may be broken down, but some are more intricately made to look more appealing than others. Such is with films. Stuff a movie to the brim and it may burst if not treated with proper direction and care. Watercolor Postcards is jam packed, full of stereotypical small town woes that never truly finds its feet, beating itself up in the process and yet offers nothing of value.
Located in the fictitious town of Bent Arrow, Texas lives an overly “precocious” little critter named Cotton (Bailee Madison). Bent Arrow is as rundown as you can get – the overly washed out color of the film solidifies the depressed state of the town as well as the budget of the production. There’s a bar run by none other than Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) who plays Ledball – the names are as silly as the dialogue – and a postcard stand owned by Butch (Conrad Goode). There are a few locals running around, a sheriff (Paul Sanchez) who has little to do, and a greedy mayor who wants nothing but the best for his town, of course.
Cotton’s mom kicks the bucket within the first few moments of the movie, introducing an unclear religious aspect that leads the viewer to believe that Cotton can see the future in her dreams. Since Cotton is only 10-years-old, and no father in sight, she is left with the courts to decide what to do with her. But wouldn’t you know it, her big sister Sunny (Laura Bell Bundy) arrives, visiting from Los Angeles, just in the nick of time to inherit the child. Sunny must now deal with the loss of her mother, the decision to stay and raise Cotton, and the skeletons that haunt her past – good thing she has enough vicodin to deal with all of the pressure.
And like that, Watercolor Postcards begins its tailspin of plot threads, slowly unraveling at the seams over the course of its 115 minute run time. It wasn’t enough to have the entire weight of the film on Sunny’s plight, but also we have the guarded love interest Butch who gave up football, ruined his first marriage, and now runs his postcard stand on the side of the main road – which he can conveniently make enough money to support the care of a pet horse. Sure it may sound like these characters are fleshed out enough to seem human, but it is only on a surface level, never given enough details to understand or care where they have come from.
While Sunny and Butch deal with their demons, Ledball is losing his bar to the mayor because he can’t pay his bills, and the town is going by the wayside due to lack of traffic and the town’s dying economy. Fear not, Sunny can sing. Coercing her sister to perform in front of the locals at a BBQ because she saw it in a dream, Cotton believes that Sunny has come back for a reason, to save the town. But it can’t be that easy. We need the drunk, hick ex-boyfriend to bring Sunny back down a few pegs. But so help it, Butch is going to see that Sunny has a second chance in life.
As Rajeev Dassani’s second feature film, there were a lot of story elements for the young director to balance on his plate. Perhaps for a more seasoned filmmaker there could have been a more coherent story to come out of this congested screenplay written and produced by Goode. There is potential coming from a few of these subplots, but unfortunately Dassani never sees any of them through with most left unresolved. And when we do find closure, it feels half-baked and thrown together at the end to wrap up the movie.
Luckily for the viewer, the cast does its part to create some sort of personality to shine through its dryness. Bundy can sing fairly well and she has decent chemistry with Goode. However, there are too many irrational character actions, especially with the ex-boyfriend Tommy (Chad Faust) who is more of a cartoon than a character – Safe Haven comes to mind. Madison is predictably unbearable. Her acting becomes almost too much, which was prevalent in Troy Nixey’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, written by Guillermo del Toro.
Watercolor Postcards asks the viewer to believe in the will of a small town’s residents to save their way of life, yet the townsfolk are never given a strong enough voice to pay attention to and the Sunny and Butch are constantly dealing with their problems, not the town’s. Starting as our main character, Cotton is practically tossed aside, only to be used to push the narrative forward when the film’s A.D.D. kicks in and needs to move on to the next plot development.
Setting Watercolor Postcards up for failure, Dassani carefully places the film out on a limb, begging for whatever pleasure can be taken away once it spills out onto the screen. Sadly, there is little to no joy inhabiting the weak themes of this exceedingly cliché film. Filled with enough ammo to self-inflict, the cracks from the overstuffed plot can immediately be seen before the final blow breaks Watercolor Postcards wide open.
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Watercolor Postcards was directed by Rajeev Dassani and written by Conrad Goode, with a run time of 115 minutes. The film has not been rated, but I would be willing to bet it would be PG-13 if it gained distribution. (I wish I watched the trailer before I saw the film to save myself two hours of my life.):
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