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Accidents Happen DVD Review

Accidents Happen (2010) movie poster Accidents Happen

Australian Theatrical Release: April 22, 2010 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Andrew Lancaster / Writer: Brian Carbee

Cast: Geena Davis (Gloria Conway), Harrison Gilbertson (Billy Conway), Sebastian Gregory (Doug Post), Harry Cook (Larry Conway), Joel Tobeck (Ray Conway), Wendy Playfair (Mrs. Smolensky), Erik Thomson (Bob), Sarah Woods (Dottie Post), Morgan Griffin (Katrina Post), Troy Planet (Tiny Post), Viva Bianca (Becky), Rebecca Massey (Louise), Katrina Retalick (Connie Conway-Kellywood), Jayden Hall (Ricky Kellywood), Damien Garvey (Officer Passman), Peter Lamb (Officer Barret), Johnny Xenos (Gene Conway), Ivy Latimer (Linda Conway), Karl Beattie (Young Billy Conway), Joshua Denver (Young Gene Conway), Flynn Colby (Young Larry Conway), Lachlan Campbell (Young Doug Conway), Tyler Coppin (Narrator)

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When a movie star stops acting, you can never be sure if good roles dried up for them or they were just picky and decided to call it quits. When a movie star's career fizzles, there is little doubt that the industry has questioned their appeal, relevance, and talent.

54-year-old Geena Davis, one of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses in the 1990s
for her work in films like Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own, has been scarce since the 2006 cancellation of her ABC drama "Commander in Chief." Davis did give birth to twins just ten months before portraying America's first female president, and her relatively thin résumé, which spans back to Tootsie, implies some selectivity. Having 28 years of experience also suggests that Davis had to know that Accidents Happen wouldn't pose a quick return to the A-list.

The feature-length debut of Australian director Andrew Lancaster and writer Brian Carbee, who previously collaborated on a 2000 short film, Accidents is a dark coming-of-age dramedy, a genre that can often do well with critics, but rarely reaches a huge audience. The film comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday with seven festival screenings worldwide, but no general American theatrical release, to its name.

Gloria Conway (Geena Davis) considers a wake an acceptable place to crack a joke about the deceased to her 14-year-old son Billy (Harrison Gilbertson).

Accidents Happen opens in 1974 in an unspecified American suburb. A young boy has just witnessed his next-door neighbor set himself on fire in a fatal barbecue mishap. To get his mind off that trauma, the boy's mother (Davis) and father (Joel Tobeck) take him and his three siblings to a drive-in theater showing some Three Stooges comedy. The relief is short-lived, because on the way home, the family gets into a car accident that kills its lone daughter and irreparably damages one of the three sons.

The movie resumes eight years later, with now-teenaged Billy (Harrison Gilbertson) emerging as our protagonist. Billy doesn't get along with his disagreeable older brother Larry (Harry Conway), who is starting to drink, still pained by his twin's unchanging vegetable status. The boys' parents are in the midst of a divorce, a process that along with uterine problems seems to threaten Mom's sanity.

Billy finds an outlet in neighbor boy Doug Post (Sebastian Gregory), a friendship both boys' parents question and discourage. Billy and Doug briefly forget life's hardships as they secretly run off at night, committing juvenile pranks like swiping light bulbs. One such shenanigan has major consequences, however, when the downhill roll of a stolen bowling ball results in the death of Doug's boorish father. The boys grapple with coming clean, weighing their futures against the prospect of Doug's family being uncompensated insurance-wise by what is somehow deemed suicide.

Larry (Harry Cook) and Billy (Harrison Gilbertson) address their long-comatose brother Gene. Typically acid-tongued mother Gloria (Geena Davis) reacts to her son's involuntary manslaughter revelation with a dropped jaw.

Accidents Happen gets off to a shaky start, with its "Desperate Housewives"-type voiceover wryly overexplaining its prologue. The narration, seemingly delivered by HAL 9000, persists for a good fifteen minutes, its own estimation ranking quite above yours. When it subsides and the movie commits to showing rather than telling, things improve.
A number of familiar threads -- adolescent awakening, sibling rivalry, family secrets, suburban intrigue, and none-too-distant period setting -- are woven together in a pleasantly engaging fashion. None of the angles is entirely riveting, but the combination is a passable one.

Davis is fine as the unstable mother with a knack for biting insults you need a moment to process. Despite her pre-title billing, it is absolutely a supporting role. Meanwhile, the cast assembled around her in New South Wales, Australia wages ongoing war with American accents, slipping in and out of character to distracting effect. Apart from the vocal challenges, Harrison Gilbertson does a nice job in the lead role, his first and his first film work of any kind in eight years. As Doug's mom, Sarah Woods does not falter in voice or performance. Everyone else is hit and miss, a fact that truly limits the film from reaching its potential.

Still, it's a decent debut for Andrew Lancaster, whose directing has largely heretofore been limited to the Australian music video scene. I have no doubt the film would have been strengthened by dropping the accent work, either filming in America or relocating the story to Australia. The latter didn't happen because Brian Carbee based the screenplay on his own accident-prone experiences growing up in Connecticut in the early 1980s.

Buy Accidents Happen on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $27.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP)


Accidents Happen looks very good in Image's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen DVD presentation. Coming to this having recently seen some less presentable low-budget fare from the studio, the film's clean and calculated visuals are particularly pleasing and unmarred by any perceivable shortcomings beyond noticeable interlacing. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack rarely opens up, but when it does (in Doug's house, for instance), it is to appropriate effect.

Geena Davis is happy to think back to her past film roles in an interview session used in three parts of the DVD. The slow-motion opening scene, presented in the teaser, looks like something from "Zombieland." With ice bag on head, Billy finds himself between beer-guzzling father and son on the Post couch and the DVD's main menu.


Accidents Happen's adequate extras supply begins with "When Featurettes Happen" (3:25), a short making-of that joins movie clips with comments from unidentified cast and crew members.
Lack of identification is no concern on "Glorious Gloria" (2:15), the disc's second featurette. It deals exclusively with the character of Geena Davis, who discusses the part and compares it to Stuart Little's mother.

Customary for an Image DVD, "Cast & Crew Interviews" (8:10) gives us more of the on-camera sessions employed in the featurettes, including some unused bits. Seen at greatest length are Davis and director Andrew Lancaster. We also briefly hear from actors Harrison Gilbertson and Joel Tobeck, producer Anthony Anderson (not the "Law & Order" actor), and writer Brian Carbee.

Six deleted scenes (5:42) don't appear to have been deleted at all. They're mildly recut in ways you'll struggle to notice.

Finally, we get two welcome previews for Accidents Happen: a one-minute teaser that uses the film's slow-motion opening imagery and a more revealing full trailer (2:12).

Set to The Middle East's twice-featured "Blood", the DVD's main menu runs a standard montage in front of a plaid backdrop. Before it loads, we get a trailer for That Evening Sun.

Billy Conway (Harrison Gilbertson) stops his bike at the drive-in theater where his family spent its final night intact. Doug (Sebastian Gregory) and Billy return to the scene of their deadly accident.


Though slightly lacking, Accidents Happen is not a bad film. As a small low-concept piece, its lack of wider distribution makes sense, but this wouldn't be out of place in a theater among other personal indie films defying tidy classification. You'll have to seek it out, but if you do, expecting a dark family dramedy and not the bold Geena Davis vehicle that the cover suggests, you shouldn't come away disappointed.

Image's DVD delivers a fine feature presentation and a few okay but unremarkable bonuses.

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Related Reviews:
New: The Runaways • A Town Called Panic • Multiple Sarcasms • Jesse Stone: No Remorse • Chloe • Greenberg • Middle of Nowhere
Starring Geena Davis: Commander in Chief: Part 1 • Commander in Chief: Part 2
Son of Rambow • The Boys are Back • Margot at the Wedding • Driving Lessons • Australia • Adventureland • Everybody's Fine
Featuring Joel Tobeck: Eagle vs Shark • The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

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Reviewed July 24, 2010.

Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Bankside Films, Red Carpet Productions, Screen Australia, Abacus Film Fund,
Head Gear Films, NSW Film and Television Office, and Image Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.