‘Winter Passing’ falls short of mark

  • By Robert Horton / Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 9, 2006 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

A rare lead role for indie actress Zooey Deschanel sustains “Winter Passing,” a frosty little study in depression. This movie wants to be in the mode of Wes Anderson’s wry comedies such as “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” but doesn’t find its feet.

The story seems to be inspired by the reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, who became a culture hero after writing “The Catcher in the Rye” and has refused to publish anything or talk to the media for decades.

The movie’s heroine, played by Deschanel, is Reese Holden, and she has a father who sounds a lot like J.D. Salinger (“Holden” is presumably the film’s play on Holden Caulfield, “Catcher in the Rye” hero).

Reese, a struggling actress in New York City, is offered a great deal of money for a collection of her parents’ letters. This sends her to her now-widowed father’s house, where things have changed since her last visit.

Dad hasn’t changed, however. Ed Harris plays the alcoholic, dazed Don Holden, who’s every bit as remote as Reese remembered him. But now he’s being tended by two newcomers, who bunk at his place: Corbit (Will Ferrell), a sort of bodyguard-handyman, and Shelly (Amelia Warner), who looks suspiciously like an ex-student/mistress of the great writer.

What unfolds is a comedy of despair, as the tone shifts from the serious scenes in New York – not only is Reese promiscuous and unloving, she even kills her cat – to offbeat black humor.

The wild card is Will Ferrell, toning down his usual persona to fit the mood of this project. He plays a shy former guitarist for a Christian rock band, and although he never seems believable as someone who would enter Don Holden’s orbit, he’s an amiable addition to the ensemble.

Ed Harris, with his flyaway white hair and beard, looks a lot like Paul Newman here, and he does his usual meticulous work in a very sketchy role. English actress Amelia Warner is a wonderful find as his live-in caretaker.

First-time director Adam Rapp puts the film on the shoulders of Zooey Deschanel, whose monotone line readings and kooky timing have brightened movies such as “All the Real Girls” and “Elf” (she’s just about the only bright spot in this week’s “Failure to Launch”).

This role demands more emotional range than is usually required of her, and at times Deschanel seems as limited as her character in letting her colors out.

The movie has a similarly limited palette. This should be appealing to the art-house audience that enjoys movies by Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson, but it’s not enough to merit a recommendation.

“Winter Passing” HH

Spotty: A struggling actress returns home to visit her father, a J.D. Salinger-like reclusive writer. This black comedy doesn’t reach the level of a Wes Anderson picture, although it tries hard.

Rated: R for language, subject matter

Now showing: Uptown, Seattle

Talk to us

More in Life

Everett comedian Taylor Clark performs stand-up in 2023 at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mike Bryk)
Comedian Taylor Clark to film first special Friday in Everett

The skateboarding funny-man will record an hour of his stand-up at the Historic Everett Theater.

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

A view of King Street Station in Seattle, Washington from an Amtrak Cascades train to Portland, Oregon from Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ride the rails on Amtrak Cascades from Everett to Portland

Make new friends and let Amtrak do the driving on this 5-hour trip past sea, city and forest.

From left, Elora Coble, Carol Richmond, David Hayes, Karli Reinbold, Giovanna Cossalter Walters, Landon Whitbread in a scene from Edmonds Driftwood Players' production of "Murder on the Orient Express." (Dale Sutton / Magic Photography)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Edmonds Driftwood Players opens its 65th season with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Some collectibles are found in nature; some imitate them. If it weren’t for the attached figure, this Royal Dux porcelain vase might pass for a real conch shell.
This shell-shaped vase would make a fine souvenir of summer fun

It may not be a real shell, but this art nouveau piece could still evoke fond memories of days at the beach.

Arlington Garden Club celebrating its 90th anniversary

The club has monthly programs for north Snohomish County gardeners and awards scholarships to area students.

Spouses Franchesca and Don Simpson talk about their baby girl’s “chubby cheeks” and “button nose” as Kelly Fox RDMS RVT performs a live-view 3D ultrasound on the expecting mother Saturday, August 26, 2023, at Wonder Baby Ultrasound Studio in Everett, Washington. The Simpsons are expecting their first child in October. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Glamour shots in utero? Everett studio offers HD ultrasound keepsakes

For curious parents, these glimpses are exciting, but not medically endorsed.

An Oxford White grille with red “BRONCO” lettering signifies the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition model. (Ford)
2023 Ford Bronco Sport has two new Heritage Edition models

Design and paint treatments pay homage to the original Bronco introduced in 1966.

Most Read