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Spin

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Spin

from Film Forum, 10/28/04

Based on the novel by Donald Everett Axinn, Spin is the first film for director James Redford, son of Robert Redford. The movie won the Crystal Heart Award at Indianapolis' Heartland Film Festival in 2003, and only now is it finding its way to big screens in a limited release. Redford clearly shares his father's flair for making quiet, down-to-earth films, although Spin falls far short of the lyricism of A River Runs Through It. But let's not judge the younger Redford by the masterpieces of his father yet. It's his first film.

Spin tells the story of Eddie Haley, an orphan whose parents died in a plane crash. As he grows and tries to find direction for his life, Eddie learns to fly a plane like his father, rebels against the counsel of his uncle and the Mexican couple who raised him, and falls in love with a Mexican-American beauty named Francesca.

Spin is a bit workmanlike, and the story isn't much more complex or challenging than a Disney Sunday night movie. It scratches the surface of important themes like the dangers of prejudice and the ugliness of abuse, but it fails to engage these themes in any fresh or interesting ways. Lead actors Ryan Merriman and Paula Garcés make an attractive couple, but they're too well-groomed to make the story stick; their clothes always look brand new, their hair is always perfectly styled, and they don't find enough subtlety or personality to make the characters distinct.

The film's supporting cast redeems the experience—veterans Stanley Tucci and Ruben Blades turn in understated and winning performances as Uncle Frank and his ranch foreman Ernesto. The picturesque Arizona backdrop, and the storyteller's passion for celebrating the rewards of a close-knit family, sweeten the deal.

My full review is at Looking Closer.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) calls it "a small, intimate picture that, while it deals with mature themes and issues, keeps itself well within a PG-rated, family-friendly environment. What is particularly nice is that no one in the film is a villain. The pressures on Eddie come primarily from within himself as he searches for the clues to who he really is and what he really wants to do with his life."

"Spin endures some storytelling turbulence, making the ride a bit bumpy at times, but its moral horizon is steady," says Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily). "Merriman and Garces are evenly matched as actors, and they look good together on camera. Their relationship is believable. Less impressive, though, is the conveyance of motivation for some of the other characters. One can feel the translation from novel to script, as the impetus for some of the action seems missing."

Chris Monroe (Christian Spotlight) says, "Redford explained to me that he sees this movie as a 'celebration of family.' But while it is a film about family, it is not what he would term a 'family film.'" He concludes, "Some of the events are predictable and some moments a bit overly dramatized, but there is honest work being done here. If you're looking for decent entertainment, give Spin a whirl."

David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) raves, "The bottom line in the film is: Do not allow the horrible events in life to 'stop you.' Life must keep moving forward. This powerful film celebrates the power of family and its ability to help us face life's difficulties. It is about how new life can arise from the ashes of devastation."

Due to the film's limited release, only a few mainstream critics have yet reviewed the film, but most responses have included measured praise.


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