Film Review: COUNTING FOR THUNDER (USA 2015) ***

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counting_for_thunder.jpgAn actor unlucky in work, money and love goes back home to the deep south to help out during a family crisis and is inspired to find his true voice as his mother is finally finding hers.

Director: Phillip Irwin Cooper
Writer: Phillip Irwin Cooper
Stars: Phillip Irwin Cooper, Mariette Hartley, John Heard

Review by Gilbert Seah

 It should be noted that this autobiographical film started out as a one-man play where Phillip Irwin Cooper played no less than 30 different odd characters. But Cooper has taken his play out in the open quite well, as it is difficult to guess that the film originated that way. Cooper does the writing, directing and lead role in the film.

Phillip Stalworth (Cooper) is an actor unlucky in work, money and love. He goes back home from California to the deep south, Alabama to help out during a family crisis. His mother, Tina (Mariette Hartley) has been diagnosed with cancer. He is more attached to her than to his father, Garrett (John Heard) who in turn is closer to his sister (Alison Elliot). So why is this film advertised (billed) as a LGBT film? Phillip is bi, who has made out with both sexes. While back in Alabama, he has a fling with an old school-mate, Joe Tishman (Peter Stebbings). There is no nudity or skin in this film.

The film benefits from two veteran actors, Hartley and Heard. Stebbings is sexy enough or at least plays sexy quite well. Cooper, however, is fond of making awkward faces whenever conversation is made. There is one scene with a key dialogue that goes against Cooper’s face making. Mother says the wise words that in a photo, the snapshot taken of there person is one that is frozen and that person will be remembered forever with that pose. This means Cooper will be remembered forever in his film as the man who makes awkward faces.

On the more serious side, COUNTING FOR THUNDER is an honest and earnest film from the heart of Cooper. There is the pain and tenderness of the lead charter that emancipates from the screen. The audience can tell that Coper is playing a real character. Cooper does not go for cheap laughs such as joking about people of the deep south.

The film contains a few really odd yet funny scenes. One wonders if they turned out this way by accident or were they carefully planned. One is the meeting outside the house where

Joe Tischman gives Phillip some collard greens from his garden telling him that he looks frazzled and the greens with olive oil and sea salt will brighten any day. While the two talk, their body language turns weirder, as if they were two roosters fluttering their feathers to see who is the more attractive.

At one point in the film, Thomas asks his mother while high on hashish, “Have you ever felt at any time that nothing in your life has every went the way that it should?” And they burst out laughing. It is an excellent scene showing that Cooper is able to laugh at his own material. But the film is more touching than funny. The film’s confrontation scene between Phillip and his father, however feels a bit forced.

COUNTING FOR THUNDER works better as a family drama than as a south middle age coming out story. The film will be released in the U.S. and Canada via Wolfe Video on May 2 on DVD & VOD and across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and and many major retailers.



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