Video Verdict: ‘Barefoot’

Evan Rachel Wood, left, and Scott Speedman star in the offbeat romance “Barefoot.”

Evan Rachel Wood, left, and Scott Speedman star in the offbeat romance “Barefoot.”

It is an extremely slow week for home video, as no major theatrical releases made the transition to the small screen.

 

Barefoot

2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including references, partial nudity, brief strong language and a scene of violence
Lionsgate
Available on: DVD, digital download and on demand

“Barefoot,” Director Andrew Fleming’s English-language remake of the 2005 German movie “Barfuss,” is an offbeat affair that ranges from endearing and sweet to flat-out creepy. The emotional range is primarily due to the cad-like ways of male lead Jay Wheeler (Scott Speedman).

Although Jay was born to a wealthy, Louisiana family, he left his life of privilege to make a mess of himself in Los Angeles. When viewers meet him, he’s deeply in debt to a loan shark and working as a janitor in a psychiatric hospital. He manages to perform even this job poorly, remaining employed only because a good-hearted doctor (J.K. Simmons) repeatedly gives him slack.

Clearly embarrassed by his failures, Jay agrees to return home for his brother’s wedding, but only after inventing a rich fantasy life. He tells his parents that he is an administrator at the hospital, and that he is also in a serious relationship with a nurse. Since none of this is true, he is forced to find a woman to pose as his girlfriend, a difficult feat since Jay is also remarkably self-centered.

One night, a young psychiatric patient named Daisy (Evan Rachel Wood) slips out of the hospital behind Jay. When she refuses to readmit herself, he senses opportunity and asks her to attend the wedding as his “girlfriend.” Desperate, lonely and attracted to Jay, Daisy agrees.

In the movie world, this type of thing is supposed to be “cute,” but one needn’t hold a master’s degree in psychology to understand just how inappropriate Jay’s actions are. Although Daisy is a beautiful, young woman, she spent her entire youth acting as a maid for her unstable and recently deceased mother. Because of this, she has the mindset of a child, and Jay thinks nothing of taking advantage of her naivety.

If a man were to treat a disturbed woman this way in the real world, people would be lobbying for his immediate arrest. In “Barefoot,” he is the hero.

Thankfully, writer Stephen Zotnowski veers from the creepiness, using the questionable setup to slide into a predictable, yet ultimately sweet, romantic tale. The fact that Speedman looks like a male model and not a stalker helps.

Fleming is comfortable with quirky, and he handles it well. The director’s filmography also includes the 1999 political comedy “Dick” and the goofy, 2008 movie “Hamlet 2.” “Barefoot” is more subdued than either of these features, and the movie is actually more of a melodrama than romantic comedy.

Wood is terrific throughout, and she makes Daisy a likable character. This allows viewers to invest in the story even when they’ve lost faith in Jay.

Despite “Barefoot’s” pleasantly sentimental core, the movie has a number of structural problems that are sure to frustrate picky viewers. It takes wild leaps of logic that wouldn’t work anywhere outside Hollywood, and it has continuity errors that become increasingly frustrating.

Because “Barefoot” has plot problems, it would take a major rewrite to make it significantly better. Frankly, the story is too predictable for that sort of attention, and that makes Fleming’s version – imperfect as it is – passable.

The home video releases have no extra features.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Best Offer”: Romantic thriller about Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush), a famous art appraiser who is hired by an heiress to evaluate a collection accumulated by the woman’s late parents. Virgil is baffled because the woman always keeps herself hidden, and his curiosity eventually becomes obsession. Donald Sutherland and Jim Sturgess also star. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (“Cinema Paradiso”).

“Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Neighbors From Hell”: Taping of a new Tyler Perry stage play featuring his beloved Madea character. In this outing, Madea takes action after someone breaks into her house.

“Riot in Cell Block 11”: Freshly restored presentation of director Don Siegel’s 1954 movie about inmates who take prison guards hostage in protest of the brutal conditions at their facility. Neville Brand and Emile Meyer star.

“Bettie Page Reveals All”: Documentary film about the life and enduring popularity of pinup model Bettie Page. The film uses Page’s own narration, thanks to a series of audio interviews conducted before her death. Directed by Academy Award nominee Mark Mori (“Building Bombs”).

“The Inspector Lavardin Collection”: This release from the Cohen Film Collection includes both of director Claude Chabrol’s theatrical mysteries featuring French police inspector Jean Lavardin. The set also features two of Chabrol’s television movies about the inspector. Jean Poiret stars. Presented in French with English subtitles.

“Master of the House”: Criterion Collection restoration of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1925, silent dramedy about a tyrannical husband who receives a comeuppance.

“The Suspect”: Thriller about two social scientists who pretend to be bank robbers as part of an experiment. However, their study takes an unexpected and deadly turn. Mekhi Phifer, William Sadler and Sterling K. Brown star. Written and directed by Stuart Connelly

“Newhart” – Season Three: Twenty-two episodes of Bob Newhart’s 1980s sitcom about a New York City writer who moves to Vermont and runs a small inn with his wife. Mary Frann, Tom Poston, William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad also star.

“Scream Park”: Direct-to-video horror movie about an amusement park owner who plans murders in hopes of attracting media attention to his business. Doug Bradley stars. Written and directed by Cary Hill.

“Lady Whirlwind” and “Hapkido”: Shout Factory double feature consisting of two, 1972 movies starring martial actress Angela Mao Ying. In “Hapkido,” Ying and two other fighters engage in a fierce rivalry with another martial arts club. In “Lady Whirlwind,” Ying seeks revenge against the man who wronged her sister.

 

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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