FILM: Lebanon, Pa.
For some reason or another I’ve often saved Sunday afternoons for those quiet meandering movies that break down life’s poignant moments at a slow pace over a soft soundtrack; quiet movies like Garden State or Lost in Translation come to mind. There’s just something about Sundays that seems to fit; the soul-draining of the work week is over, the excitement of Friday and Saturday night has passed, and Monday is looming just around the corner. I can usually spot a Sunday afternoon movie a mile away, and from the trailer I could tell that Lebanon, Pa. fit the bill.
In Ben Hickernell’s movie, city-slicker Will, (Josh Hopkins, Cougar Town’s Grayson), travels from Philly to Lebanon, Pa. after his father dies. The most touching part of the movie, for me, was when the camera captured the now stationary, everyday objects his father had previously employed: the toothbrush sitting near the bathroom faucet, the dishes piled up in the kitchen sink and the bookmark resting halfway through a book.
As Will stays in the house and tries to grasp some of the essence of his father’s life, he befriends his cousin, 17-year-old CJ (Rachel Kitson), who quickly sparks the film’s focal controversy, as she is an unwed pregnant high school student that has to decide whether or not to abort. CJ’s not the only one entwined in a debate of morality. Will falls for a woman he meets at the townie bar, and, oops, she happens to be married. The movie navigates these ethical snares without much levity, making Kitson’s CJ a far cry from Ellen Page’s Juno.
If I were still in pajamas on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and Lebanon, Pa. came on, it would have sucked me in. I would have watched the first 45 minutes or so, but when CJ’s decision becomes the central conflict of the movie, I probably would have lost interest and changed the channel. Not that abortion isn’t an important topic, but because no matter which path the plot would take, the film’s serious tone would make feel like it was trying to sell me on something. I like to have my agenda handed to me on a Monday morning, not in a Sunday afternoon kind of movie.