Uncross the Stars
A Trek Worth Taking

“How do you ruin a funeral?” asks the morosely quizzical Troy.  The funeral is that of his wife of two years, Corinne, and the incipient squabble is between his theatrically-minded mother and his stereotypically free-spirited aunt, Hilda. In a way, it feels like we’re headed for a geriatric Happy Valley Three Funerals and a Wedding.

So we’re clear right off the bat that Barbara Hershey, as Hilda, will supply the zest in this particular dish; but don’t expect Daniel Gillies, as Troy, to supply Hugh Grant-style deadpan comedy throughout, though the opening line is zinger enough.  In fact, don’t expect too much in the way of recipe or formula at all from director Kenny Golde’s decade-long labor of love. 

Yes—it’s a comedy, in the classic sense.  Yes—it’s a tragic romance, in the tradition of star-crossed lovers everywhere.  Yes—it’s a feel-good love story offering quietly heartfelt performances from sometime A-listers (like Hershey and Ron Perlman as local grump Bobby) who are clearly enjoying characters who are not required to be larger than life.  But Uncross the Stars has a mind of its own, too.

Ron Perlman as Bobby in Uncross the StarsFor one thing, the Happy Valley retirement village setting isn’t just there for Cocoon sentimentality and past-their-prime fart jokes.  It makes sense, really, for this tale to take place in a setting where young mourners mingle with aging lovers, where tasteless suburbia rubs shoulders with run-down Native Americana.  I’m sure the choice made sense from a production-cost standpoint; but it just feels right, too.

For another, it manages a close look at the grief of loss which is touching but not maudlin.  Gillies has been solid in other small films such as Steel City and The Sensation of Sight, and here he may remind you of the older Jason Bateman in a younger man’s body—if that makes sense.  He provides a mature anchoring presence that’s appealing and not the least bit showy.

Third, it plays to liberal Hollywood conventions without pandering to them.  So it’s no surprise at all that the free-spirit heart of the picture describes a funeral service as “medieval mumbo-jumbo,” and her spirituality is typically non-committal when she cites a sunrise as rare but valuable evidence that “God hasn’t taken the ball and gone home.”  Those who have ears, though, will know what Bobby means when he says that “the beginning of wisdom is having a firm grasp on the obvious.”

Finally, writer Ted Henning introduces a couple of key subplots that provide emotional ballast without having to be wrapped in tidy little bows at film’s end.  It’s a nice touch to find in a small, sentimentally-minded microwave popcorn flick.

“Bury your sorrow in doing good,” the film says, whether that’s investing your life in a reservation medical clinic, following your one true love to the ends of the civilized earth, or building a porch.  It’s not earth-shattering filmmaking; but what is?  At the very least, it takes its own advice seriously and manages to be a job well done.  I’ll sure be keeping it in my DVD library.

IMDb lists Uncross the Stars as rated PG-13, but the MPAA reports it as unrated.  I wasn’t paying real close attention to potentially objectionable material here, but I’d peg this as PG material.  I think it would make fine family viewing, if you don’t mind talking to your kids about death and grief.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional DVD of Uncross the Stars.