Anytown U.S.A. Portrayed in countless films and television series the idea of a group of teenagers wishing to escape from their one horse town is a familiar one. While not reinventing the wheel, Cameron Watson’s charming “Our Very Own” is a nostalgic look back on Shelbyville, Tennessee in the 1970’s and a group of five friends who dream of a better life.
Clancy (Jason Ritter), Melora (Autumn Reeser), Ray(Derek Carter), Glen (Michael Mckee) and Bobbie (Hilarie Burton) are bored by their hometown and take comfort in the little escapes provided by riding the elevator at the Hyatt hotel or riding around town in their parents’ cars. When it is announced that local hometown hero Sandra Locke will be returning to town to visit, ouR heroes see a chance for escape, maybe if they can impress her enough during the local talent show she’ll help to take them away to Hollywood. A cute and extremely well acted (most notably Ritter, Reeser and Allison Janney as Clancy’s mother) piece “Our Very Own” is filled with wonderful little touches but doesn’t give its characters anywhere to go.
Consider the romance between Clancy and Melora, while good friends the attraction between them cannot be denied. A tender make out session is interrupted when bodily functions get in the way and this funny, awkward moment is captured perfectly by both actors and Watson’s direction. However, when later in the film Clancy and Melora go all the way she is worried that having sex will ruin their relationship, they have sex and…nothing happens, for good or bad. Whereas the make out session felt real and unpredictable the growth of the relationship feels forced. Other subsequent subplots involving redneck Ricky (John Will Clay) stalking Bobbie and Clancy’s father (Keith Carradine) being an alcoholic don’t flow as naturally as the early scenes and seem more TV movie of the week than realistic.
“Our Very Own” works best in the little touches. The excitement of being lent a car for the evening, the way that Clancy dances uncontrollably to his own records and the poor family on the edge of town with a banner hanging, begging their mother to come home, these moments elevate “Our Very Own” from many of the other portraits of small town life because Watson succeeds in making Shelbyville unique in its blandness.
Worth it for the acting and authentic hometown feel, “Our Very Own” is welcome debut feature from Watson that hopefully lays the groundwork for deeper work in the future.