NATURAL SELECTION – The Review
Rachel Harris is an actress who’s caught my attention in some recent movies. She was memorable as Parker Posey’s stern lesbian lover in Home for Purim, the ‘movie-within-a-movie’ in FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION and she’s the mom in the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID flicks. Now she’s been given her first lead in NATURAL SELECTION and has proven that she’s more than capable of handling a big screen lead role. It’s unfortunate that the script for NATURAL SELECTION, despite a promising start, is unworthy of her talents.
Linda White (Rachael Harris) has been married for more than 20 years to Abe (John Diehl), a fundamentalist Christian who refuses to have sex with her. When the couple had trouble conceiving early in their marriage, it was discovered that Linda was infertile, and believing that sex without producing offspring is a sin, Abe insisted their union be celibate. Linda, an obedient spouse and devout Christian herself, has obeyed Abe’s edict, but when he suffers a stroke likely to claim his life, Linda makes a surprising discovery — Abe has been making frequent deposits at a sperm bank, and wants to meet one of the children he’s sired before he dies. Linda is able to track down one of the products of Abe’s seed, but Raymond (Matt O’Leary) is hardly the sort of son most folks wish for — he’s a mean-spirited prison escapee with a taste for drugs who agrees to travel from Florida to Texas with her only to avoid the cops who are on his trail. At first, Linda and Raymond mix as well as oil and water, but after a few days on the road the two discover they have a bit more in common than they expected.
There’s a terrifically acted scene early in the film where Linda calls the front desk at her motel under the guise of asking for a wake-up call. She’s actually just lonely and desperate for someone to talk to, but outside of Harris’ performance, little in the film rings true. Why would the attendant at the sperm bank show Linda the porn film her husband was watching when he had his stroke? One of the most disappointing things about NATURAL SELECTION is that rather than showing Linda coping with the crisis at home, it places her in the unreality of a road trip. Road movies often turn into vehicles for lazy screenwriters, and NATURAL SELECTION is no exception. Her relationship with Raymond is developed unrealistically during the course of this journey. By the time they get halfway home, the movie wants us to believe that they’re closer than what has been shown, so close in fact that this religious woman is going to jump the bones of this smelly convict who she thinks is her stepson (and guess exactly when her minister, who’s on her tail, knocks down the door of her hotel room). Then there’s manufactured drama and tension of when Linda is going discover the big twist that the audience figured out much earlier. One wants to give credit to writer/director Robbie Pickering for making an honest movie about the tribulations of a woman whose faith is tested, but the film is flawed dramatically, with the inert road trip segment doing too little to advance character development and interaction. Harris’ performance redeems parts of the movie and I look forward to seeing her in more films, but NATURAL SELECTION too often feels like a long journey to nowhere.
2 1/2 of 5 Stars
NATURAL SELECTION opens in St. Louis today at Landmark’s Tivoli Theater