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Youth in Oregon (2016)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/4/2017

All Ratings out of

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/22/2017

Sad movies are nothing new. Heck, sad movies have been a staple of cinema since the beginning. However, when it approaching material which is going to skew non-happy, once must consider just how far into the darkness one wants to go. If a film wallows in sorrow, the audience will feel beaten and bruised, and come away with no positive feelings. However, if the material isn't taken seriously, the drama can feel forced or flat. These boundaries will be explored as we examine Youth in Oregon.

It's Raymond Engersol's (Frank Langella) 80th birthday, and he has an announcement for his family -- wife, Estelle (Mary Kay Place), daughter, Kate (Christina Applegate), son-in-law, Brian (Billy Crudup), and grand-daughter, Annie (Nicola Peltz) -- he wants to return to his home-state of Oregon and die. Ray has had heart surgeries in the past, and he doesn't want another one. He's done his homework, found a doctor who will assist with the procedure and made travel arrangements. Of course, Estelle and Kate attempt to talk him out of it, while Brian doesn't take any of it seriously. When it becomes clear that Ray is determined to see this through, Brian agrees to drive Ray and Estelle cross-country from New York to Oregon. Along the way, Brian begins to see a different side of his father-in-law, while Ray prepares for something that no one expects.

Youth in Oregon comes from Director Joel David Moore, who is better known as an actor, having played the gawky guy in Dodgeball and the weird villain in Grandma's Boy. What you may not know is that heís dabbled in filmmaking for over a decade now, having directed fare such as Spiral. (IMDB also lists a 2014 film from Moore entitled Killing Winston Jones, which features a familiar cast, but apparently remains unreleased.) Youth in Oregon is Mooreís biggest release to date, as it played the Tribeca Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival. It also marks a departure in tone for Moore, as Spiral was a thriller, while Killing Winston Jones appears to be a black comedy.

Youth in Oregon is decidedly a drama, and a very bleak drama at that, and therein lies the problem with the film. Assisted suicide is a very delicate subject, and must be handled in a special way. The movie is presenting us with a character who wants to die, and, if done correctly, itís going to make us understand why they want to make this drastic decision. But, Youth in Oregon really misses the mark here. We learn that Rayís doctor is suggesting another heart surgery and that Ray doesnít want that, but itís not 100% clear why he is choosing death. We see that heís surrounded by a loving family, which may not be perfect, but at least they are there. The other mistake which the film makes is that it make Ray decidedly unlikable. In theory, the audience should be saddened that the main character wants to kill themselves -- We shouldnít be rooting for them to die.

The other issue with Youth in Oregon is that first-time feature film Screenwriter Andrew Eisen has gone out of his way to overwrite the film. A movie about a man who wants to end his life should be enough, right? Nope. We get subplots akimbo here. Estelle is a budding alcoholic who also takes prescription drugs from family members. Annie is caught sending nude photos to her boyfriend. Kate and Brianís other child is away at college and wonít return their calls. Kateís brother (Josh Lucas) also has some skeletons in the closet which lead to a strained relationship with the family. Brian and Kateís marriage is strained, and did I mention that Ray is impotent? This seems to be another one of those movies which wants to be the ultimate slice of life movie and illustrate all of the various problems which a person can have. Oh, and itís another movie which shows that marriage is the worst decision that a person can make.

So, as you can see, there is a lot going on in Youth in Oregon. But, whatís the one thing which is missing? Levity. The movie attempts to have some humorous moments, but overall, it simply wallows in its own misery and we are treated to scene after scene which focus on human suffering or the ever-funny suicide. There are probably going to be viewers who wonít make it through the film due to its unrelenting sadness. The movie could have been a serious, yet sensitive look at assisted suicide and how it affects a family, but the film insists on being all over the map. The acting here is solid, and everyone here gives it their best, but they canít overcome the movieís tone. Perhaps Moore can learn from this and learn to edit the script next time.

Youth in Oregon assumes that we get bird-watching on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is OK, but it gets a little soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The road scenes deliver some obvious stereo and surround effects which show good separation. The score never overpowers the dialogue. I didnít hear any notable subwoofer effects.

There are no extras on the Youth in Oregon DVD.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long