"Usually when I hear the words 'family drama,' I run," said Willem Dafoe, who nevertheless found something to savor in writer-director Dennis Lee's Fireflies in the Garden. Little did Dafoe or his castmates Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson, Hayden Panettiere and least of all Lee himself know that their particular family drama wouldn't make it to American theaters only today -- nearly four years after its Berlin Film Festival premiere in 2008.
Julia Roberts shot newbie director Dennis Lee's ensemble family drama Fireflies in the Garden four years ago, but after an infamously disastrous Berlin Film Festival showing and distributor drama at Senator Films, the indie film languished for years on the shelf. Last night at their premiere in Los Angeles Lee told Movieline how Roberts saved the film from direct-to-video hell and Roberts explained why her upcoming project, Snow White, will be worth the price of admission.
If Sean Penn didn't love the abstract narrative Terrence Malick employed in Tree of Life, maybe he'll dig the pretty-similar, much more conventional stuff in the long-delayed Fireflies in the Garden -- a Tree of Life Lite starring Ryan Reynolds as a middle-aged man who returns to his Texas childhood home to deal with his strained relationship with his stern father (Willem Dafoe). Period flashbacks, memories of an angelic mother (Julia Roberts), and a pivotal death that inspires exploration into deep emotional scars? The only things missing are the cosmic clouds of particles laden with meaning. Would Penn approve?