Don't believe the description!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an extremely smart, clever, funny and surreal movie about holding onto our individuality. It is not an action drama as the description would suggest--instead it is a witty exploration of Santa Fe culture (or Sedona, or Taos, or the like), where people can be willing to give up too much of themselves (and their money) to find enlightenment. The question in the movie is just how rewarding complete individuality can be."
Gary Cole: A Great Actor in a Great Film
L.A. Scene | Indian Trail, NC USA | 08/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When one lists some of the top actors in Hollywood today, the name of Gary Cole does not come to mind. Gary Cole is an actor that has proven himself time and time again. Cole is most famous for his dead-on portrayal of Mike Brady in the "The Brady Bunch" movies that appeared in the 1990s. Many feel that Cole nailed the Mike Brady role as good as the late Robert Reed. Even the lame sequel entitled "The Brady Bunch in the White House", had its one bright spot in Gary Cole. Cole has done other roles too. Recently he played Cotton McKnight, a broadcaster in "Dodgeball - A True Underdog Story" and once again nailed the part of playing a caricature of a straight-laced announcer. My exposure to Cole seemed to be in this caricature-type roles. When I discovered the independent film "Santa Fe", I discovered a whole new side to Gary Cole - a dramatic one (although he still shows his comedic side in parts of the film). However this time, Cole is given a very good script and as a result delivers a top-notch performance in what I feel is one of the better independent films of the last ten years.
In "Santa Fe", Cole plays Paul Thomas. Thomas plays a Santa Fe police officer who has an an obsessive interest in cults. At the start of the movie we learn that Thomas, his wife Lea (played by Sheila Kelley) and daughter Crystal (played by Tina Majorino) have escaped from a cult that became way too over the line (dangerous). Thomas had helped Lea and Crystal escape, but was wounded himself by gunfire as he tried to escape. A mass killing occurred at the cult and Thomas was the lone survivor. During his time in rehabilitation, his life changed. He was suspended from the police force, his wife Lea left him for a New Age Chiropractor named Dan Yates (played brilliantly by Jere Burns), and most importantly he realized he had an addiction to these cult-like organizations. Upon returning to Santa Fe, Thomas tries to get his life in order. This includes rebuilding his relationship with daughter Crystal and getting back on the police force. With some help from his City Councilwoman sister Nancy (played by Pamela Reed), Thomas is reinstated and although he is assigned to a menial desk job, he seeks to go after many of Santa Fe's "charlatan-like" characters who he feels are cult-like figures. This hits home immediately when Dan and Lea get Crystal involved with a New Age guru named Eleanor Braddock (played by Lolita Davidovich). Immediately Thomas suspects that Eleanor is a charlatan and seeks to get her out of his daughter's life. While trying to pry Eleanor out of Crystal's life, he begins to get close to Eleanor and falls for her. The movie begins to unfold as Thomas struggles walking a fine line trying to determine if he really is in love with Eleanor or in love with her ideas. In particular while Thomas begins to struggle with himself - we also see Eleanor doing the same.
The amazing thing is - on top of a very good story and a very good screenplay, we the city of Santa Fe play prominently into the movie. Not only does is the movie filmed on location, but there are many concepts that are prominent in Santa Fe that are also explored. These the concepts include: ethnic tensions (namely with the large Hispanic makeup of the city). gang violence, the idea of Santa Fe being a lightning rod to many of these New Age philosophies, and the concept of Santa Fe being a home to many Hollywood "outsiders". The nice thing is that the screenplay does a terrific job at integrating these concepts into the storyline. Most notably, there is an interesting storyline involving Thomas' sister Nancy trying to unseat the fictional Mayor of Santa Fe in a run-off election. This subplot will play a role in the overall story.
Ultimately, this is going to be Cole's movie from start to finish. The character of Paul Thomas really gives Cole a chance to shine. Cole provides some comedic moments throughout the film - whether it is running into a tree blindfolded or executing his witty sense of humor. At the same time, we see Cole's able to develop his character of Paul Thomas throughout the movie. He is also given a very good female presence in Lolita Davidovich who plays Eleanor There is definite on-screen chemistry between the two.
Another interesting wrinkle to the film is the inclusion of Phyllis Frelich playing Thomas' psychiatrist, Dr. Ginsburg. As a part of his condition to return to the police force, Thomas had to agree to counseling sessions. Dr. Ginsburg is deaf and needs to communicate with Thomas through the use of a translator who understands sign language. For those who aren't familiar with Frelich's work - she is deaf in real life. The use of a deaf character definitely adds a sense of realism to the movie, but also gives it another dimension. Cole isn't the only character who is going to provide comedic relief. It is Frelich's character of Dr. Ginsburg that will provide some humorous moments.
Perhaps the only bad part of the movie is a lame dream sequence involving Paul and Dan Yates in which Paul loses part of his tongue. I thought the scene was pretty bad and not necessary.
I thought the ending of the movie was very good. The ending wasn't predictable and I was very satisfied - even though part of me wanted this movie to go on even longer. The nice thing is the movie will keep you entertained from start to finish. Even though this was an Independent film, I'm very surprised this movie has not garnered more attention than it did. While Cole does a great job in the movie, this movie was terrific top to bottom - highly recommended."
Featuring the city in a starring role
Nicholas Carroll | Portland OR United States | 03/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From the description, this movie sounds cheesy, but its not. It's a surprisingly enjoyable independent film about one man's obsession. For anyone who has ever been to Santa Fe or plans to, this is the perfect film to watch as you get to see quite a bit of the town. I loved it the two times I visited and am always eager to return. People who've been struck by Santa Fe Fever will undoubtedly laugh at some of the "inside jokes" in this film, which reveals some its quirks and charm, most notably the all encompassing "New Age" spiritual seekers.
Gary Cole plays Paul Thomas, a former cop who left the force when he, along with his wife and daughter, joined a David Koresh-type cult in Wyoming. We see flashbacks of him saving a few lives before getting shot and wounded. When he returns to Santa Fe to pick up where he left off, seeking his old job back, people are naturally suspicious of him. He disappointed some street thugs who really did look forward to their Saturday "midnight basketball" games (did that program really work?). He's required to attend therapy sessions with a deaf woman who communicates quite expressively through sign language and one big reason I love this film. His cop partner finds amusing ways to get him out of a session early.
Lolita Davidovich plays Eleanor in a spot on resemblance of writer Marianne Williamson. Paul thinks Eleanor is just another cult leader, even though his ex-wife and daughter think she's great. She has retreats at her very artsy house and gives lectures, and is often hounded by gushing autograph seekers. What we learn is that she's just communicating what is basic info that everyone should know, and she feels guilty about it. She's not the one who views herself as a guru to be worshipped and admired, and such devotion among fans leads to her breakdown. That's where the film is weakest...because I wanted to see more of her and why people think she's a cult leader. I certainly didn't get that sense (nor do I think Marianne Williamson or Deepak Chopra are cult leaders...they are just writing about basic info and caught the celebrity trend mobile that ultimately makes their message/books cheesy). Paul falls in love with Eleanor and we (the viewers) don't know if its authentic love or groupie love, as it seems more like the latter. The resolution comes about too quickly and I certainly would have liked to have seen more. I got the sense that some scenes were deleted, possibly for time considerations, but with a film like this, I was never bored once, so I could've enjoyed another 30 minutes to get a clearer idea about what this film is ultimately about. Its certainly not what the description makes it out to be and that's a relief. Its not a cheesy film. Its high quality on a low budget, and I recommend seeing it and owning it if you like it. If anything, it makes a nice video souvenir of Santa Fe."