The Tribes of Palos Verdes

The-Tribes-of-Palos-Verdes-new-film-posterThe Mason family moves from Michigan to sunny Southern California to restart their lives. Unfortunately, they bring their troubles with them. Wife Sandy (Jennifer Garner) is an ex-model sinking deeper into depression, foregoing a skimpy green tennis dress for a mousy bathrobe. Husband Phil (Justin Kirk) is a star cardiologist who aspires to be cardiologist to the stars. Not finding love at home, he takes up with the couple’s Palos Verdes realtor. Twin brother Jim (Aussie newcomer Cody Fern) aspires to be popular, but falls into bad company, drugs and co-dependency with Mom.

The deeper characters are the other twin, Medina, and the town of Palos Verdes, a seemingly idyllic suburb of Los Angeles on an eponymous peninsula that defines the southern reach of Santa Monica Bay. In PV, as locals actually call it, your lawn must be green and trimmed, your house must be painted white as least every three years, the cops know every resident by their car, the beaches are groomed daily and everyone is beautiful. Of course, there is an underside: infidelity, drugs, idle teens, hazing, cliques and all the other things which teens and adults with too much money and time on their hands get up to.

The movie is adapted from Joy Nicholson’s semi-autobiographical first novel of the same title. Nicholson, like her heroine, grew up in the midwest moved to PV as a kindergartener, and survived a dysfunctional family.

Medina keeps her sanity by going surfing. Hazing? Go surf. Not the prettiest bikini girl on the beach? Go surf. Parents divorce? Go surf. Boyfriend issues? Go surf. The credits list two surfing body doubles for the star, Maika Monroe. Besides her budding career as a scream queen in Hollywood horror, Ms. Monroe is a professional kiteboarder. Kiteboarding combines elements of surfing, para-sailing, rollerboarding and other extreme sports.

The film is billed as a coming-of-age American tradegy. Fair enough. For any of us who grew up or live in affluent communities, it will hit close to home. Opens nationally December 1.

Phil Neches

 

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