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Dad knows best
on 24 April 2012
Tobe is a bored, rebellious teenager living with her younger brother Lonnie. When she hooks up with a much older drifter, Harlan (Edward Norton), her father Wade naturally objects. What I can't work out is why the question never arises as to what happened to the mother. Lonnie calls Wade by his name and the lack of closeness or affection between all three family members might be explained by the mother of the children divorcing their father, marrying Wade and then dying, leaving him to bring them up - and bringing women back to the house overnight.
Harlan seems too good to be true, and his swift, all too sweet romance with Tobe descends into threat and we see him as he is - penniless and feckless. In fact he is more than that, he is dangerously unhinged. There were snatches of dialogue I missed, but obviously he is NOT a cowboy, but possibly worked on a cowboy film set, as when he goes missing taking Lonnie with him, Wade in hot pursuit knows exactly where to find him.
Harlan in his needy, pathetic air reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. But Harlan is only a cowboy in his fantasies, and Wade is NOT, as some have stated, the sheriff. He's not doing a good job as a father and his aggression towards Tobe, though a result of his frustration at his inability to control her, could explain her promiscuity and attraction to the danger and unpredictability of Harlan.
The film is brilliantly acted, but there are certain weird aspects to the film - the sudden switches of pace, the unexplained (why doesn't anyone wonder where Lonnie is when Tobe is in hospital, why does Harlan suddenly sprout a massive moustache overnight, what is his relationship to the Jewish family he steals from?)