Mellencamp stumbles

May 09, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Utterly unsupported by advertising or any publicity mechanism, John Mellencamp's "Falling From Grace" has opened on a single screen at the Harbor Park Theater. Yet those fans who love the young Hoosier's hard-rock sound will certainly be the most disappointed in the film.

Though Mellencamp, who also directed, plays a singer, it's not of the rocking variety; he's Bud Parks, a leading country-western star come home to southern Indiana with beautiful young wife Alice (Mariel Hemingway) in tow for his grandpa's birthday and to make some kind of peace with his own rather massively tangled family.

The Parks family owns the largest chicken ranch in the territory, and their patriarch, Speck (Claude Aikens), is a violent showoff who spends most of his time trying to bed his sons' wives and trying to keep his legitimate offspring separate from his illegitimate offspring.

Soon enough, Bud has joined the melee, abandoning wife to share brother Parker's wife with his father. There's so much bed-hopping in Doak City, Ind., you'd think Larry McMurtry wrote the script. And, in fact, he did, which is why so many of the scenes are so sharp and the characters are so vivid.

But the movie, over the long haul, doesn't really work. It's framed as a flashback as poor self-destructive Bud pulls a stupid stunt ostensibly for thrills but actually to bang himself up enough to get people to feel sorry for him. Most of the subplots are simply abandoned. This little ditty about Bud and Alice can't compare with "Jack and Diane."

'Falling From Grace'

Starring John Mellencamp and Mariel Hemingway.

Directed by John Mellencamp.

Released by Columbia.

Rated PG-13.

... **

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