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Scarecrow on Seattle: IN THE SHADOWS aka UNDER HEAVEN

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

In the Shadows aka Under Heaven

Cynthia (Molly Parker) and Buck (Aden Young) are two slackers in love who spend most of their days stealing, getting high on cough syrup, and arguing about the rent. One day Cynthia decides she's had enough and bucks Buck for a job as live-in companion to Eleanor (Joely Richardson), a wealthy woman dying of cancer. When Buck comes whining back to Cynthia, she decides Buck should seduce Eleanor to get her money, and an awkward love triangle is born. Writer/director Meg Richman's film, based on Henry James' novel The Wings of the Dove, didn't engage me enough to believe the characters were actually in love or even liked each other. Buck has no reason to actually fall for Eleanor but somehow he just does and then moves back and forth between his lovers with no discernable emotional conflict. Cynthia vacillates between pushing Eleanor and Buck together and wildly claiming abandonment with similar randomness. Eleanor lingers delicately in the balance, looking frail in her pastel clothes. The film was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, so my experience is apparently not typical.
 

Thankfully, there are some nice bits of Seattle to appease my uncultured self. Cynthia and Buck start out at the Brewster Apartments in the Denny Triangle. Buck plays pool and existentially dribbles Redhook on the bar at what a trusted expert (Scarecrow on Seattle contributor Spenser Hoyt) believes is a pre-remodel Comet Tavern. Eleanor buys Buck a truck at Westlund Buick on Aurora and immediately demands he drive her out to the mountains. They cross the south fork of the Skykomish River on Highway 2 before stopping for an outdoor tryst. Hammering Man keeps time as Cynthia and her troubadour friend sing on the steps alongside Seattle Art Museum. Buck and Eleanor take in the cityscape and the Fourth of July fireworks on the hill at Gas Works Park. There are also a few more subtle nods to our region: the film opens with Buck stealing fruit pies from a Gai's Bakery truck (Did Gai's even make fruit pies?); Cynthia mocks Buck for being from White "Trash" Center; and a vendor wearing a MacPherson's Fruit and Produce apron sells Cynthia some dill from a cart in Pioneer Square. The soundtrack features original songs by local musician Marc Olsen, and Buck uses the song "Pendulum" from Screaming Trees' singer Mark Lanegan's solo album Whiskey For The Holy Ghost to introduce Eleanor to both the concept of rock music and his warm embrace. As a nice finishing touch, Scarecrow Video is among the local businesses thanked in the credits.


-Jen Koogler

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