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Zemeckis' CASTAWAY was test screened tonight... one report thus far! Massive SPOILERS BEWARE

Hey folks, Harry here... This is the film I'm most looking forward to seeing this year. However.... Like THE THIN RED LINE and MAGNOLIA... this film will not work for everyone... Now I don't know for sure... I know what I've read solely in script form... but on that page... the film started very quickly, glazing over his life... you see quickly that he had no time for the details of life... well... it's complicated. I can't wait to see what others say, like I said... I've got the feeling that by the time Zemeckis is done working on this film, you'll see a great many changes that make this film work and resonate deeply... At least that is my hope. We'll see.... As of the first test screening, this is what one audience member thought. Here ya go...

Well, I’ve just gotten back from the test screening of Cast Away. It was held at the Century theater in Sacramento at 7pm. It was a full theater, though surprisingly they were not showing the film on the largest screen at the theater. I have no doubt that they could’ve filled a much larger room based on the excited attitude of many of the people in the audience before the screening. However, by the time the film was over I’m not sure how many of those audience members would’ve recommended the film to their friends.

First, the good. Zemeckis’s direction was solid. There’s a cool shot when Hanks is on the top of the island and the camera is above him and it looks down and pans around. You can see the beach all around and it’s disappearing in the water and then there’s just water as far as the eye can see. You got a great sense of how isolated the island is. Another shot that was cool was when hanks has left the island on a raft he built, and the camera is deep under the water looking up at the raft floating with hanks arm dangling in the water. And the camera sweeps across under the raft and then rises and rises and comes out of the water and continues higher and higher until it’s way up high looking down at hanks, all in one shot. I’m not sure how they accomplished it, definitely had cgi trickery to it, but it was great.

The opening credits sequence with the camera following a package going through the FedEx mail system was cute. From the time of the plane crash to Hanks getting rescued was very well done, exciting even. But….

The bookend scenes before and after the island were lame and poorly done. When we first meet hanks character (Chuck) he’s yelling at russian FedEx employees about mailing packages on time and he’s chewing up the scenery so bad I thought he was gonna choke on it. Also, we don’t get much about what his life is like before being trapped on the island. He has a woman he loves (Helen Hunt) but isn’t married to and a job that makes him travel the world and is demanding of his time. That’s it. Not enough time is spent letting us know much about who he is as a character.

And when he gets rescued we cut from seeing him floating on a raft, all shaggy haired and gnarly after being on the island for 4 years, and then we see him on a plane, all cleaned up and back to normal. That quick of a change. This, after all that happened on the island. Watching him adapt to life on it. The foot injuries because he didn’t have shoes, the leg wound from coral, trying to make fire, trying to open coconuts without losing the liquid inside, his time going mad while talking to a volleyball he calls wilson which has a face painted on it from his own blood. Everything. But then whoosh we see him looking normal in a suit, flying in a plane. It would’ve been nice to see him cleaning up for the first time in 4 years. In discovering the person under that mess of hair. To put on comfortable shoes that fit, a big deal since much was made about his lack of fitting footwear on the island. But no, we just jump directly from one thing to the other.

And when he gets back to the world, what happens? Next to nothing. He learns Hunt married Chris Noth and had a daughter, though she says she still loves him. One of his friends from FedEx says that tomorrow they’ll help him get his life back. And a woman he delivers the one box of FedEx mail that he didn’t open (about 8 washed ashore) to gives him directions at an intersection, telling him where all the roads lead. Then fade out. That’s it.

Next to nothing is really made of his life before the accident, and next to nothing is made after. If he changed a lot as a person we don’t know. How he views life, people, everything, we’re left clueless about. The middle part of the film on the island is very well done, it has a nice buildup, but it’s ultimately a buildup to nothing. It goes nowhere. And it’s really a shame because the island part of the film was exciting to watch and played well with the audience. Also the plane crash was harrowing and in its few minutes it made you fear drowning and dying in a way that the 15+ hour running time of perfect storm did not.

The audience seemed to enjoy the film, but as it got towards the end the response died down. There was some applause when it was over but no where near as much as it would’ve gotten had the 1st and 3rd acts been much better and actually had a point to them. I tried to stay for the Q&A afterwards, but they said they had enough people for it and shooshed the rest of us away. Walking out of the room I did get a chance to see Zemeckis and Katzenberg and their entourage walking in.

Hollywood H

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