It’s surprisingly difficult to turn even the most successful stage play into a decent movie. “Deep in the Heart (of Texas),” Stephen Purvis’ hit-and-miss cinematic exploration of an entire state’s state-of-mind, proves how difficult this adaptation is.
Adapted from “In the West,” a regionally legendary play, DIH launches a fictional British husband and wife team to Austin to make a documentary about Texas. Even though this leads to “interviews” for their pseudo-doc with some of the Lone Star State’s more colorful characters, the inherently trite “film within a film” convention stales quickly.
Sure the venom-spewing, ex-Vietnam Vet high school football coach, for example, and a toothless hillbilly woman who bakes LOTS of pies are a hoot. They’re also about as three dimensional as armadillo roadkill. Then, as if to drive home the stereotypes, director/hubby “goes Native” on his wife, prancing around the bedroom in boxers, cowboy boots, and a ten-gallon hat. Is this a clever jab at tourists or a dig at all things Texan? (Then again, that’s standard attire about three miles outside of Austin, so maybe they deserve it.)
Still, the fictional documentary portion of DIH is far more interesting than the documentarians’ conflagerating marriage. Big surprise, then, that the Brits were added during the script adaptation; a suspicious mortar and spackle job to cement together what were stand-alone monologues and vignettes on stage.
Austinites will treasure “Deep in the Heart” as a cinematic time capsule of their city. Texans and other Southerners might crack a knowing smile or two. As for the rest of the world, I just don’t know that they’ll care.