On June 18,1999, ABILENE was shown at the
Directors’ Guild in L.A. James Morrison, who had a part in the film, invited
some fans to the showing. Their comments follow.
ABILENE Review by Diane Golomb
I saw ABILENE at the Directors' Guild yesterday and liked it very much! It is a story that is character driven rather than plot driven, and it would be hard to really describe the plot!
The heart of the movie is the characters -- a group of quirky and often stubborn individuals in a small Texas town. They are very private and don't confide very much in each other, even though they've known each other for years. The physical distances between them are matched by the psychological and emotional distances that they try to maintain. They don't want to pry, and they don't want others to know too much of their own personal business.
There's a pervasive sense of longing and waiting that I felt right from the beginning. The cinematography is beautiful and feels peaceful, and the curved screen in the small screening room enhanced the wonderful view. But other than the visual landscape, I felt as if I were watching a play, because of the sense of intimacy in watching the conversations and interactions.
I liked the whole cast, which starred Ernest Borgnine and Kim Hunter. James Morrison was very good as the sheriff, and his primary occupation didn't seem to be fighting crime but rather keeping the peace. He was a good guy (and he looked really good too!). I really enjoyed Park Overall's role as the proprietress of an all-purpose gas station, cafe, video rental store, etc., and Wendell Pierce's role as the minister.
The movie had a lot of humor in it, a humor that comes from the characters and not from contrived situations. The movie also had a certain poignancy about life, loneliness and lost chances. I highly recommend it.
ABILENE Review by Carol Hallenbeck
James was not at the premiere for ABILENE, however, Ernest Borgnine was. We saw him getting his picture taken with someone before the show, and I so wanted to congratulate him on the movie afterward, but he was still inside the theatre when we left.
If you don't like car chases, crashing cars, inane dialogue, stupid plots, lots of special effects and bad acting then this is the movie for you. I loved it, loved it. A quiet little movie about a small town near Abilene and the people who inhabit it. They were so real, so credible; the acting was marvelous, all the acting.
James played the local sheriff, Bernie, wonderfully. Not a lot to do for the sheriff in this town. Yet what took place was soooo important in the lives of some of the people living there -- chances missed, not taken, heartbreaks, friendship, love -- those simple, little things that make the real world go round. And there were some beautiful shots of Texas. This movie should definitely be seen in a theatre, where a big screen would do it justice.
I wish James had been there. I wanted to congratulate him on his acting and on his choice of roles. Everyone was believable in this movie, right down to the smallest character.
ABILENE Review by Dot Peters
ABILENE, a new movie written and directed by Joe Camp III, is a fresh imaginative character study of a group of people connected by love, loss and missed opportunities. Set against the open, rolling landscape of rural Texas, which is both intensely beautiful and lonely, Camp has drawn individuals that are restrained and self reliant and yet connected and sensitive to their neighbors and friends.
The main character, Hotis Brown, played by Ernest Borgnine, is a lonely yet independent WWII vet who lives on a farm he is no longer working. When he runs his truck into the gas pumps at Betty's, the local gas station/diner, he loses his driver's license and becomes the reluctant responsibility of the local sheriff, Bernie, played with genuine warmth and tenderness by James Morrison.
Park Overall plays Betty, the owner of the gas station/diner. Betty cooks three meals a day for Bernie and cares for him, but she keeps her feeling hidden behind a façade of humor and casual disinterest to avoid scaring him off. Bernie cannot seem to move the relationship forward, and he is totally unaware that everyone in town is waiting for him to do so.
After a brief telephone call from his sister-in-law, Hotis begins a 100-mile trek on a John Deer Lawn Mower to visit his estranged and seriously ill brother. Kim Hunter plays Hotis' long suffering sister-in-law, Emmeline. There is a palpable tension between Hotis and Emmeline during their short conversation, which hints at a deeper connection between these two characters from the very outset of the movie.
The supporting cast is very strong, with Rance Howard playing Arliss, the tractor sales man, who out maneuvers Hotis in a tracker trade-in. Wendell Pierce, as the Reverend Tillis, delivers an unusual eulogy, which may redeem the not so dearly departed and made it possible to forgive a man who no one seemed to morn.
ABILENE is the kind of movie that Hollywood could easily ignore, but it really deserves our attention. It has touching and original characters. These people are compassionate without being overly dramatic, and they feel no need to draw attention to themselves or their own actions. They are uncomfortable exposing their deepest feelings, yet they are quick to recognize their own failings. There is an awareness of your neighbor's need and the obligation to help them that makes these small communities so much more precious in this day of anonymous suburban and big city living.