Friday, 4 November 2016

The Elder Son (4 Stars)


This is the 21st film starring Leelee Sobieski. It was made in 2006, but it wasn't released until 2008, when it went straight to DVD. The delay is because the film's director, Marius Balchunas, strongly believed his film deserved a cinema release and spent two years trying to persuade distributors. Eventually he gave up and settled for a DVD release. That was unfair. It's a highly enjoyable family drama, with a hint of comedy, that manages to tread new ground. It's almost a romantic comedy, but not quite. The subtle differences are what makes it an original film.

The film is about a poor Russian family living in Los Angeles. The father, Max (Rade Serrbedziya), is a classical clarinet player. His wife left him six years ago. He has an 18-year-old daughter, Lolita (Leelee Sobieski), who doesn't seem to be doing anything. She's left school, but rather than go to college or get a job she wants to secure her future by marrying a pilot. He has a 14-year-old son, Nikita, who is hopelessly in love with the 31-year-old English teacher who lives next door, and he isn't able to comprehend that she doesn't want him.

Max has recently been fired by his orchestra because of his drinking. He likes his vodka, like most Russians. He now works playing in old people's homes, hardly earning any money. He's too proud to tell anyone what's happened to him, but his family notice the lack of money.


Things change when a young man comes into the family's life. Bo is a car thief on the run from the law. He takes refuge in Max's apartment to hide from the police, but he soon sees an opportunity. After seeing old photos he pretends to be Max's illegitimate son. He hopes to stay a few days, long enough to rob Max, but he soon realises that Max has nothing worth stealing. Bo is overwhelmed by the way Max accepts him into the family and begins to feel affection for him, since he never knew his real father. That might have worked out, but he also feels attracted to Lolita, who rejects him because she thinks he's her brother.

This is the second film that Leelee Sobieski made with Rade Serbedziya, after "Eyes Wide Shut". In both films he plays her father. They make a good team.

I'm still keeping count of the sexual stuff in Leelee's films. This film includes a few passionate kisses with Bo. That brings the total to one film that contains a simulated sex scene and four films with passionate kisses. That makes the percentage of films in her career so far with sexual stuff to either 4% or 22%, depending on whether or not the kisses are included.

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