A laundry list of missteps including sloppy editing, poor supporting performances and lethargic storytelling qualifies Matthew Stanton‘s directing debut “North Starr” as a gigantic bust. The fact that “North Star’ tackles worthy themes involving racism and the need for tolerance makes its flaws all the more disappointing. After watching his best friend murdered, Demetrious (Jerome Hawkins) flees Houston. He pays a taxi driver to take him as far away as possible, ending up in Trublin, a small town in rural Texas. Some of Trublin’s residents do their best to harass Demetrious. But Darring (Matthew Stanton), a local ranch hand, offers Demetrious work at the North Starr farm and a chance to adapt to a new place and lifestyle. Demetrious suffers from repeated nightmares and it slowly becomes clear that Trublin plays a role.
Jerome Hawkins does an admirable job trying to boost the quality of the film’s fish-out-of-water gags and mystical silliness that includes a young Native American boy who pops up out of nowhere to help him interpret his dreams. Hawkins shines in what should be the film’s stellar scene, Demetrious performing at the town’s main bar and winning over the crowd with his Rap music. But Stanton and cinematographer Peter Levermann fail to get their hands around the scene and bring the action alive. It’s a letdown, too lethargic, like much of the film.
Stanton is more successful in front of the camera; giving a steady performance as Darring. Like the rest of his cast, Stanton suffers from his lethargic script. Cliche characters and clumsy supporting performances add to the beginner’s feel of “North Starr.” Frequent flashbacks to a terrible crime in Trublin further fragment the film. By film’s end, Demetrious’ nightmares are solved with little surprise, satisfaction or impact. Its one consistent quality is lethargy; making the story of Demetrious’ journey the movie equivalent of a road to nowhere.
indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival is available in iW’s special Park City section.