Movie Review: “Yosemite”

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An unsettling dread hangs over the boys of “Yosemite,” a character study built around a couple of interconnected James Franco short stories from his book, “Palo Alto.”

Boys talking about death. News reports (set in the early ’80s?) mentioning, about humans encroaching on mountain lion habitat, a child befriended by a creepy much-older teen (Henry Hopper, son of Dennis) promising comic books, boys grabbing each other in the crotch, kids finding a gun, taking rides from strangers, walking barefoot on railroad tracks.

This is Franco’s “Boyhood,” a collection of scenes sketching out many facets of that phase of life — callowness, cruelty, compassion and comic books. And curiosity. Bi-curiosity. You know how Franco’s brain works.

They don’t add up to much, but writer/director Gabrielle Demeestere manages a mood built on some solid performances by promising young actors.

“Chris” (Everett Meckler) is on hiking trip to Yosemite with his kid brother and his dad (Franco). His parents are estranged, dad is celebrating “my sobriety birthday.” There are steep falls, and the radio reminds us, mountain lions in the mountains they’re hiking.

And warning shots — “I TOLD you to look after him.”

Chris isn’t keen on the kid sibling. “Dear God, sometimes I just wish my brother didn’t exist.”

At least there’s early ’80s porn on the TV in their room at the lodge.

“Joe” (Alec Mansky) is a local schoolboy, bored, but tormented by a classmate (Calum John) who keeps grabbing his nether regions in their ongoing crotch-oriented slapfight. Joe is constantly getting in trouble for fighting with this San Francisco-bound creep.

His parents are out of town, he’s hassled for shoplifting. But he’s rescued by Henry (Hopper), who has a vintage Mustang, a comic book collection and sexual predator written all over him

With all these dangers and all this dangerous behavior, from the mysterious to the obvious, we keep waiting for something calamitous to happen. But when it does, even that isn’t as jarring as one would hope.

It never adds up to anything more than the mood Demeestere manages to translate from Franco’s fiction. Which makes “Yosemite” a “film festival movie,” nothing more than a promising idea or two and an interesting tone to recommend it.

1half-star
MPAA Rating:R for some sexual material/nudity and language

Cast: James Franco,Henry Hopper, Everett Meckler, Calum John, Alec Mansky

Credits: Written and directed by  Gabrielle Demeestere, based on the “Palo Alto” short stories of James Franco. A release.

Running time: 1:22

 

 

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