Reviews: Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (April 12-15)
-- Matt Pais, RedEye movie critic
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'Queens of Country' (***): Country music fandom not required
With big roles in the upcoming, buzzworthy romantic comedies "Save the Date" and "Bachelorette," Lizzy Caplan could become a huge movie star later in 2012. Which would be far too late.
The actress best known as gloomy Janis in "Mean Girls" delivers such a wonderful turn in "Queens of Country" that the movie didn't have to be half-good to be worth seeing just for her. Fortunately, the dramedy is about three-quarters good. Caplan plays Jolene, an Arizona line-dance competitor engaged to Rance (Ron Livingston), who hasn't said the right things in ages. Jolene's indebted to country legends like Patsy and Dolly and Loretta, though, so she's sure that emulating her idols and waiting patiently for happiness to come back around represents her proper course of action. Rance, who denies the infidelity his wife witnessed personally, says he loves Jolene. Caplan's eyes full of loneliness, Jolene replies, "I know how you feel, sugar."
When Jolene finds a lost iPod filled with the music of her heart, she posts flyers around town and romanticizes the owner, sure that someone with such terrific, sensitive musical taste must be the man of her dreams. She's really just looking for an escape from an unhappy present, which also goes for the weird, time machine-obsessed Bobby (Tool singer Maynard James Keenan), who Rance hires to pose as the iPod owner--certain Jolene would never run off with him.
Co-directors/co-writers Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke set up some complicated questions of sexuality (including a man, played by Joe Lo Truglio, transitioning into being a woman) that ultimately don't receive sufficient answers. Despite its oddball fringes, the deception-based premise also feels stale. What resonates anyway is the bond felt between musical kindred spirits, moving in harmony in a line dance or at a Wanda Jackson concert.
See it: 7 p.m. Thursday at Wicker Park Arts Center (Caplan, Lo Truglio, Matt Walsh, Page, Pomerenke in person), $15