'Delia's Gone' review: Nothing to see here
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a sympathetic fugitive is on the run from a pair of chatty police officers. It’s the basis for such gems like “Dangerous Minds” and “Hell or High Water,” but in director Robert Budreau’s “Delia’s Gone,” which is loosely inspired by the Johnny Cash tune and even features Bline Willie McTell’s original version of “Delia” over the end credits, the apple has fallen far from the tree. Your knowledge of the songs notwithstanding, “Delia’s Gone” is another lackluster murder mystery with flimsy production values, awkward performances, and murky twists that audiences will probably sniff out in the first half-hour. The movie isn’t short on star power, Stephan James, Marisa Tomei and Paul Walter Hauser have sizable roles, except the entire chemistry and vibe of the trio is off; the former playing an intellectually challenged, wrongly accused convict trying to clear his name and the latter, two police officers who can never stop bickering.
A basic and barebones narrative that isn’t so much interested in exploring the worldview and landscape of these characters, “Delia’s Gone” is about a pair of siblings, Louis (James) and Delia (Genelle Williams) falling on hard times in a backwoods, densely Caucasian populated, town where everyone has something to hide. Louis suffers from a brain injury that affects his speech patterns and judgment (the movie stops short of actually diagnosing him because I’m sure the filmmakers wanted to avoid scrutiny) and Delia, unemployed, has reverted to selling drugs and struggles to take care of her challenged brother.
When Delia ends up dead on the kitchen floor, Louis, waking up with bloody knuckles and a fuzzy memory of what happened the night before, takes the blame and pleads guilty. Years later, he’s in a halfway house chatting with an individual that has crucial information about Delia’s death and with it, decides to clear his name. It leads to several wacky encounters (a blind woman who loves chicken wings inside a mobile home?) and shady church pastors. All the while, Tomei and Hauser are on Louis’ heels, hurling insults any chance they get.
“Delia’s Gone” never feels like a cohesive film: it’s plagued with broad characterizations and superficial presentations of mental illness. And once the mystery is solved and the dots are connected, you’re left feeling defeated. You’ve gone on this tepid 90-minute journey in the hopes it would lead somewhere worthy of discussion. Instead, you’ll be glad when it’s finally over.
DELIA’S GONE opens in theaters Friday, August 19th.