[box cover]

Ulee's Gold

In this hypnotic, unpredictable low-budget drama from 1998, Peter Fonda comes up with a career-restoring role as Ulee Jackson, a Florida beekeeper and Vietnam vet who tries to keep his dysfunctional family together despite their resentment of his quiet-but-arrogant disposition. Ulee's son Jimmy (Tom Wood) is in prison for robbery, leaving his two daughters with Ulee as their mother Helen (Christine Dunford) lives in Orlando. But when Jimmy's former partners (Steven Flynn, Dewey Weber) find Helen strung-out on drugs, she tells them that Jimmy hid part of the loot, causing the pair to call upon Ulee to find the money or suffer the consequences. Writer/director Victor Nuñez hits all the right notes here, with a subtle, lyrical film that brilliantly underplays its taut dramatic qualities, subordinating the deepest conflicts and oldest wounds to the straightforward plot, thus allowing viewers to take in the film's many virtues without the long, self-serving monologues that tend to cheapen most contemporary dramas nowadays. Coming out of a decades-long B-film obscurity, one can only hope that Ulee's Gold will allow Fonda to become one of Hollywood's more prominent leading men, a position his talent deserves (in fact, compared to his work here, his role as a whacked-out surfer in the wretched Escape From L.A, isn't just bad, it's actually offensive). The entire supporting cast delivers solid performances as well, including Patricia Richardson, who shows that she's not just a sitcom personality, and both Flynn and Weber, two of the nastiest white-trash hoods to been seen in recent memory. Note to literary buffs: Ulee's full name is Ulysses, and his late wife was named Penelope — brush up on your Homer for more of these subtle references, all dealing with one man's journey to restore himself to his family and home. Good transfer (although the picture is a little soft), Dolby Surround 2.0, trailer.

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