Movie Review: Retired biologist ponders a runaway with a famous name — “The Issue With Elvis”

A mushroom expert bonds with a runaway he meets in the woods collecting mushrooms in “The Issue with Elvis,” a milder-than-mild-mannered family drama set in wild, wonderful West Virginia.

The drama is low-key/low-stakes, the pace is leisurely and the dialogue bland to inane in this All-in-the-Wincott-Family production.

Canadian character actor Jeff Wincott leaves his martial arts behind, but not his Canadian dipthongs, as retired academic mycolist Dr. Mercer, a man living alone in the woods outside of Morgantown but still able to rattle off Latin names and long lists of medicinal/culinary properties of assorted fungi on sight.

He’s not seeing nearly as much of his most treasured varieties in his corner of the woods. It turns out there’s this kid (Wolfgang Wincott) out there harvesting as well. Mercer barters for some of the kid’s mushrooms, and soon they develop a little system — food for fungi.

But no kid should be living in the woods, or the edge of them, in late winter. Mercer’s curiosity is piqued when the boy finally starts talking. The kid gives his name as “Elvis,” named after “Costello,” not Presley, he insists. And as the good doctor takes an interest he takes him in.

In between discourses on mushrooms, how you only harvest “half” from the tree so that it’ll come back, about life, religion and “modern medicine,” Mercer finds time to make some calls as he tries to figure out what to be with a runaway with a made-up name.

And that’s about all there is to this inoffensive, innocuous and dramatically-flat film by Jeff Wincott’s wife and Wolfgang Wincott’s mother. It’s not particularly interesting, and the performances do nothing to animate it.

The shot selection isn’t the best, the one pointless instance of juggled hand-held footage feels amateurish and in low-light, the shortcomings of whatever gear they used to record “Elvis” stands out.

It’s also worth pointing out that Charlotte Wincott started out as an academic neuroscientist before taking up movie making. Their son will hopefully experience a similar search for a true calling, as acting doesn’t appear to be it. Leaving your kids’ stumbling line-readings (almost every line) and awkward, coached gestures in the finished film isn’t exactly a confidence booster.

Rating: unrated, some profanity

Cast: Jeff Wincott, Wolfgang Wincott

Credits: Scripted and directed by Charlotte Wincott. A Random media release.

Running time: 1:28

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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