I Saw It On Netflix: Raising Flagg
I don’t remember what I first saw Alan Arkin in. It might have been Catch-22 (if he was in that) or, more likely, The In-Laws. He always plays the same guy as far as I can tell. A narrowly competent someone or another, who understands the world to be a small thing (dentistry, as in The In-Laws, handyman here) and behaves accordingly. Alan Arkin has been playing a slacker since before the category existed. In other words, he’s good at what he’s good at and oblivious to everything else. In this film he’s a handyman (as stated) who people put up with despite his lack of social graces. Here he takes it to a new level. When the town turns against him for suing his friend Gus, someone everyone likes, Flagg Purdy’s life begins to come apart.
His answer is to take to his bed. What actor in his right mind would agree to play a part where he is flat on his back, covered to his chin, for 40% of the movie? The answer is obvious: Alan Arkin. What actor could make something of it? The answer is obvious: Alan Arkin. Flagg wakes up one morning and can’t get out of bed. When he claims to be cold his wife, Ada, reaches under the blanket, touches his leg, and tells him he doesn’t feel cold. He informs her it’s his bones that are cold. It’s a sign that he’s dying. A Purdy’s bones always get cold when they’re dying. The family, and the few neighbors that still like him, gather. He’s giving away worldly possessions. Even things that don’t belong to him. His wife takes to wearing everything she owns, layered on her, at the same time, so that he can’t give any of it away.
This is a room full of competent actors. No one is stealing scenes or emoting all over everyone else’s shoes. They’re playing the characters as real people. People who other people, actual people, like you or me, might want to know. If this is your kind of indie you’ll like this and you’ll get a kick out of the lesson of Flagg’s `dying’.
It has some of the problems of indie movies in general. It’s not lit like a Hollywood movie, it’s not cut like a Hollywood movie. It’s not a Hollywood movie. Wait. Did I say problems? I meant strengths.