The Last Best Sunday (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two days in a row with surprise directors! Yesterday, I discussed a film called Fever, a highly stylized study of madness in the guise of a murder mystery. That film was directed by the "Bill and Ted" guy who was not Keanu. Today's film, The Last Best Sunday, was directed by the "Ralph and Potsie" guy who was not Potsie, namely Donny Most. The "Donny" has undergone a metamorphosis into "Don", and he has obviously decided to show a serious side of his personality in his directorial debut.

This film, which won Best Picture at the Telluride Indie Fest, is the story of two California teenagers from an agricultural community, both of whom are outcasts in their own ways.

Lolly is the WASP middle class daughter of strict fundamentalist Christians. Although she wishes the earth to swallow up her parents, she is deferent to them, and is spending the weekend alone in her house while her parents are out proselytizing or something equally holy. She's a social outcast, and although obviously not a young teen, is a stranger even to the most innocent sexual intimacies of young adulthood. 

Joseph is the last Mexican-American left in town after the migratory workers have moved on. He needs three credits to graduate from high school, so he's sticking it out by working as a menial laborer in a bar until he can get his sheepskin.

One night, while taking out the trash, Joseph is brutally beaten and raped by two drunken racists. He goes crazy, follows them into the bar, grabs a shotgun and blows them to kingdom come, but not before the bartender pulls out his own pistol and puts a bullet in the boy's leg. As Joseph flees the scene, he seeks refuge in a suburban house that appears to be empty, but is in fact Lolly's house. The girl is terrified by the knife-wielding interloper, but they have a chance to talk together for many hours, and they form an intimate bond forged in the understanding that they are not as different as appearances would indicate.


Douglas Spain and Angela Bettis do a long sex scene together, in which the most prominent body parts are his buns and her breasts. (The rest of her is seen only beneath him)
 From that point on, the resolution is along the lines of Thelma and Louise, with the two of them attempting a doomed road trip out of town.

It's too bad that Alex Winter and Don Most can't combine their talents. They could each benefit from the forte of the other. Winter's strengths are style and technique, intelligence, gothic camera angles and elaborate atmospheric set-up. Most is strongest when he follows his heart, with emotional manipulation and straightforward narrative. They could each use a piece of each other - Winter could benefit from Most's passion and narrative. Most could benefit from Winter's technical and artistic brilliance. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1

  • not an impressive DVD. Dark transfer, blurry, no features

I thought The Last Best Sunday had some strong elements - an involving premise and an interesting use of brown and gold in the outdoor shots, coupled with an absence of human or animal life, in order to portray the feeling of their barren small-town existence in the film's opening. Unfortunately, these elements were overshadowed by some amateur acting, unnatural dialogue, dull camera work, and superficial stereotyped characterizations. Even the DVD box looks like it was made by some high school kids in a beginning course on Photoshop. I really don't recommend the film, although it was a minor hit on the Indie circuit.

If you are a fan of "where are they now" appearances, you will be gratified by the appearance of Kim Darby, Craig Wasson, and Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham in Most's sitcom "Happy Days"!). 

  • Wasson doesn't seem to have changed at all. He still sports his 70's haircut and sideburns. 
  • Darby plays the religious fanatic mother, and still sounds exactly the same as she did in True Grit, but she is now quite old, her age and eccentricity exaggerated by a butch haircut and granny glasses. 
  • As for Mrs C - she is now 72 years old and plays a busybody neighbor. Memento mori.  Not only were the 50's a long time ago, but even the most famous show about the 50's is now a relic. 

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.7, based on only ten votes.
  • With their dollars ... I couldn't find any record of a theatrical release, although it made the indie circuit -Telluride (Best Picture), Nashville, Seattle. 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C.

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