Romancing the bayou
‘The Yellow Handkerchief’ offers a post-Katrina road trip down the back roads of Louisiana
By Jana J. Monji 03/11/2010
S tarring William Hurt, an actor who won an Oscar for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1985, and rising star Kristen Stewart of The Twilight Saga, “The Yellow Handkerchief” is a predictable journey — one road trip with three strangers involved in two love stories, both with happy endings.
Based on a story by journalist Pete Hamill, the screenplay by Erin Dignam and the casting are strictly Hollywood. In the original story, the just-released convict is traveling on a bus with two college kids. Here, the convict, Brett (Hurt), is going to see the woman he divorced while in prison for manslaughter, May (Maria Bello).
A young woman, who has just been dumped, Martine (Stewart) tries to make someone jealous by hitching a ride with the awkward Gordy (Eddie Redmayne). Not quite comfortable with the gawky, adoring boy, she invites Brett along. As the trio sets out for New Orleans, Brett’s story is slowly revealed as Gordy and Martine become friends then lovers.
Hamill’s story was previously made into a Japanese movie called “Shiawase no Kiiroi Hankachi” (The Yellow Handkerchief of Happiness) in 1977 under director Yoji Yamada. That film went on to win the Japanese Academy Award for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
This latest adaptation, made in 2008, is unlikely to merit any awards, despite good performances by all four main actors under the sensitive direction of Udayan Prasad.
Of course, as to be expected from a Hollywood production, the women are more physically attractive than the men. Do men and women really want to believe that a beautiful blonde like Bello would wait for a balding, soft-in-the-gut ex-con? Would a fashion-model looker like Stewart have to settle for a misfit like Gordy? And considering the rain and run-down places they stay at — deserted reminders of Hurricane Katrina — how does Stewart always manage to look perfectly put together without a hair out of place?
Still, if you like low-key fairytales about lost loves set against the romantically rustic green wastelands of Louisiana, you might want to see this movie. More than likely it will end up on TV in the not-too-distant future.
As for the yellow handkerchief, you’ll have to wait until the end to find out about that.
“The Yellow Handkerchief” opens Friday at the Laemmle Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.