Written and Directed by Tom DiCillo. Starring John Turturro, Sam Rockwell, Catherine Keener
This Indie film holds a special place in my heart, for many reasons.
The characters are charming, complex, and yet familiar enough for me to recognize in everyday life. Several dialogue lines could be my friends and family, verbatim. This encourages a strong connection to the characters--essential for films or books.
The film is set and filmed in the South (near Knoxville, Tennessee). The lush green hills near the Smoky Mountains are an idyllic backdrop, in addition to reminding me of scenes from childhood. Small-town diners, hotel swimming pools with tall fencing, and the vegetable gardens all set a scene of small town Americana.
In one charming scene, Turturro and Rockwell engage in a tomato fight in a stranger’s vegetable garden. While lighthearted and set to upbeat music, this scene isn't without its purpose—things screenplay or novel writers can learn from. DiCillo is a master at weaving scenes, and this is only one example which people can connect with and writers can learn from.
- It's humorous, and we see Turturro's stifled spirit begin to loosen up a bit. Character Growth.
- The threat of being caught by police brings a bond to both characters. Common Goals.
- When the police surround them, Turturro’s white shirt is in view. One cop says he can see it and to come out. Sighing, Turturro begins to stand, ready to face the music. Immediately, Rockwell insists Turturro remove the shirt and hang it on a nearby vine, allowing them both to crawl through the field and escape.
I love this scene because it’s clear Turturro would never think of rebelling on his own, but Rockwell’s character has introduced him to making changes. Shaping Each Other’s Lives/Transformation.
- Turturro and Rockwell both eat homegrown tomatoes, right off the vine. The crimson tomato color and their facial expressions make me crave one. There is absolutely nothing like the fresh, Earthy smell of tomato vines and the flavor of one grown in a garden. Store bought tomatoes are not the same, never will be. Use of human senses – sight, touch, smell.
These work visually in film. Novelists must carefully select words which convey the same thing on the page, drawing the reader into the story. This part also reminds me of a carefree time in childhood. My grandmother was quite proud of her extensive vegetable garden. We visited there every August where I picked vegetables every morning with my grandfather. One year we visited in December, when I was horribly distraught to learn that vegetables don’t grow year round.
- Writer/Director Tom DiCillo was kind enough to share this trivia nugget: The tomato scene, while choreographed and modified for the film, was based on a real-life experience when he was younger. Only he and his best friend had to hide out in the tomato field for several hours before sneaking away safely.
Incorporating true-life experiences, where applicable, into works of art can give the artist a joy beyond words. Life’s emotional rainbow gives us colored paints to play with, and it’s a delight when we can find a way for something true to life to work in our art. Immortality.
Watch it, folks! It’s one of my favorite Indie films.
My thanks to Tom DiCillo for the encouraging words and advice as I wrestle with completing my third book. You're an inspiration to artists everywhere and keep up the great work!