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Little Chenier: A Cajun Story (DVD Review)

8 Jun, 2008 By: David Greenberg

Little Chenier

Prebook 6/10/08; Street 7/8/08
Box Office $0.09 million
$24.99 DVD
Rated ‘R' for brief violence.
Stars Johnathon Schaech, Fred Koehler, Tamara Braun, Jeremy Davidson, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Mulkey.

Leisurely paced, exquisitely designed and photographed to the fullest, most evocative effect, this film really captures life on the Louisiana bayou with a sensitivity, depth and sense of authenticity rarely seen to this degree onscreen.

Of course, this should be of little surprise when it is learned that the director, actress Bethany Ashton Wolf, and her brother, Jace Johnson, co-wrote the screenplay and set the story in their hometown, Little Chenier, where it was shot.

Technically a drama, the film really takes its time before moving into the plot, a storytelling decision which can too often lead to a narrative failure but here works perfectly, gradually introducing the characters, the setting and the variety of flavors in the complicated relationships that develop in tiny out-of-the-way towns over time.

The focus is on Beaux DuPuis (Schaech in a complex, subtle, powerfully brooding performance) who owns, operates and lives in his family's riverside bait shop with his mentally handicapped 21-year-old brother, Pemon (Koehler), who requires constant attention. The amazing Koehler, having grown up onscreen beginning with roles in Mr. Mom and TV's “Kate and Allie,” may be barely recognizable to audiences familiar with him from his many other roles over the years.

Beaux is still stinging from the recent departure of his longtime girlfriend Marie-Louise (Braun, best known from her stints on “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives”) who has eloped with the surly Carl (Davidson), son of the town's kindly sheriff (Mulkey), creating a predictably uneasy dynamic.

When an unexpected tragedy suddenly shifts the balance of power in the town, long simmering passions and tensions overflow, leading to a greater, more potent explosion of emotion. The rich, sultry, steamy film is the type of Southern Gothic drama that would have made Tennessee Williams proud.

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