February 23, 2009

Route 30: A Review of John Putch’s Movie


ROUTE 30: A Review of John Putch’s Movie

      This afternoon a friend and I attended a movie that had great raves. Attendance at the local Ligonier Theater, which I’ve heard has poor movie attendance, was almost SRO. I splurged (diet-wise) with hot buttered popcorn and settled in for an afternoon of enjoyment.
     Within the first five minutes, I was disappointed. I guess I didn’t expect to hear the language in what I had thought was a friendly family film. Almost immediately, two people left. About a third of the way in, four more persons got up and left. Shortly, a seventh person left. All expressed to me they were leaving because they too were disappointed. The movie wasn’t what they expected.
     Yet, upon checking Internet sources, the movie received across-the-board raves.
     Below is a summary of the film taken from the site “John Putch Filmography.”
Take a trip to South Central Pennsylvania to see what life is like on the edge of the Lincoln Highway in this quirky [three part] tale of interconnecting lives starring Curtis Armstrong, David DeLuise, Dana Delaney, and Robert Romanus. The first segment, titled “Deer Hunters Wives,” details the daily frustrations of a Civil War tour guide named Mandy who’s hopelessly fixated on the story of Jennie Wade – the only civilian to be killed during the battle of Gettysburg. Meanwhile, her good friend June hatches a scandalous plan to make some extra cash by starting an online porn site. “What I Blieve” tells the tale of a man who enlists the aid of a Christian Scientist in healing his back pain and explaining the Bigfoot that chased him through the mountains, and “Original Bill” finds a writer’s search for inspiration in the quiet countryside constantly interrupted by his Amish neighbor, a woman who smokes, drinks, and sneaks a peek at his television whenever possible. ~ Jason Buchanan

     Putch is the son of actress Jean Stapleton and the late William Putch. He spent his childhood in the Caledonia State Park area, where his father guided the Totem Pole Playhouse. He considers the Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, area a “magical spot,” and visits friends and landmarks there when he is able. He also believes every filmmaker has a desire to return to his home and “shoot” something—which is what he did when filming the move Route 30, which is based on his father’s slightly exaggerated stories.
     Which is why he could say after the premiere showing at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg on September 27, 2008: “This audience here, this movie is tailor-made for them and it almost seemed personal. They laughed at the same things I laughed at. It was like there were 800 of me sitting there, laughing.”
     Route 30 has an appeal to almost everyone, according to Putch, although he admits that some content is not appropriate for children. I agree, and I’m glad in retrospect that my daughter and 11-year old grandchild had other plans, so that I could not invite them to accompany me to the movie.  

     Members of this afternoon’s audience seemed appreciative of the movie.
     Perhaps my dislike of the movie plots comes from the fact that they were stories local to the Fayetteville area, of which I am unfamiliar.
     I understand that in today’s world, films are incomplete unless there is “bad language.” However, this language seemed to flow in the conversations, and seemed to me to be unnecessary. Even the first word out of the Amish girl’s mouth was a four-letter word. Her unhappiness with her situation could have been expressed somewhat differently, and the point would have gotten across.
     In speaking with persons who, like me, did not like the movie, other points were made, some of which I too feel. The pot-smoking—is that so much a part of the Fayetteville area culture that it was necessary to promote in the movie? Another comment concerned the disrespect in making fun of the Christian Science religion and the Amish. Some people, myself included, felt the movie was not up to expectations, and that it was misrepresented in the local media. One person dared to call the publicity “almost fraudulent,” and suggested that it needed a title different than Route 30.
     While many persons liked the humor, joy, fun and “down-to-earth” people in the movie, I found the above points overwhelming. Other adjectives suggested were disgusting, crummy, a waste of money, and arrogant.
     If I were considering moving to the Fayetteville area based on this movie, I would NOT make that move. 



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  1. I’m very curious about how this film ended up at the Ligonier Theater. Did someone in the Valley Players screen it? Did they believe the publicity on it? I find it hard to believe that it was found to be appropriate for family viewing if any one responsible actually saw it. Yes, +I was one of those people who got up and left rather than sit through what I think is a very poor film. I’m amazed at the raves and, yes, awards it has received. I think the film is misnamed and that it draws an audience who want to know more about the road we all know so well; I, for one, feel cheated. I also feel sorry for Putch if that type of character is all he knew in his area. I would think that one could find a million fascinating characters and stories along Route 30; it’s a shame he didn’t do more research and try to find them, instead of sitting out in California, writing such nonsense. I heard some laughter near where I was sitting, but not much. “Hilarious!” I think not. The story lines were silly — much didn’t even make sense. The characters? Well, Jeff Foxworthy would have a field day with them. I hope some of the people who paid for the viewing felt they received their money’s worth. I didn’t.

    Comment by Patt — February 23, 2009 @ 5:57 am | Reply

  2. Thoughts/questions have come to my mind.
    First, have we as a culture become so inured to questionable language that we can subject ourselves to theater, movies, books and social settings where comments are threaded together with this language?
    Second, were there others who walked out during the previous showings of this movie in Ligonier? How about elsewhere?
    Third, were there others in the audience who wanted to walk out but considered it would be rude to do so?

    I invite comments from those who attended the movie Route 30, both from those who liked the movie, and from those who did not like it.

    Comment by beanerywriters — February 23, 2009 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

  3. Comment copied off the Ligonier Living blogsite hosted by Diane Cipa:

    I guess movies are pretty much the same as beauty, “in the eyes of the beholder”. I’ve seen some bad reviews on movies that I liked and some good reviews on movies that I believed to be so, so. Having said that, I must admit that I am not a movie fan and probably see no more than 3 a year including those on TV.

    We went to the theater on Saturday night to see Route 30 and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. I agree that some of the language was unnecessary and if it was there for shock purpose, it made its point. I laughed more at this movie even though a lot of the humor was slap stick and off the wall. The Saturday night crowd must have enjoyed it too because the end of the movie brought forth a large round of applause.

    When the movie was first publicized, I thought it was about the Lincoln Highway whose history I love. Friends at the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor who had seen the movie advised me on the synopsis and I was prepared for what I saw. I give it two thumbs up and almost considered going back to see it a second time today. I decided not to because that would make two movies already this year and it’s only February…

    February 22, 2009 11:57 PM

    Comment by carolyncholland — February 23, 2009 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  4. Comment for Patt…Putch’s plan is to show Route 30 at select theaters (anywhere he can) along the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor folks, with offices in Ligonier, attended the premier in Gettysburg and offer this quote on their website: “The independent film, Route 30 – 3 stories, 1 road, will be shown at the Ligonier Theatre, 210 West Main Street, Ligonier on February 20, 21, and 22. Call the Theatre (724-238-6514) for show times. This adult comedy (a real hoot!) was filmed on the Lincoln Highway in south-central Pennsylvania. Enjoy!”

    Comment by Chick Cicconi — February 23, 2009 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

  5. A second comment copied off the Ligonier Living blogsite hosted by Diane Cipa:

    I have to agree with Uncle Sam. I liked the film very much.
    I went to see the movie on Friday night and the theater was full. I had read about the movie and knew what to expect but I knew that many in the audience thought they were there to see a documentary on Route 30. The theater manager even made an announcement before the showing stating that the film was not a documentary and was not filmed locally as had been widely rumored.
    The film pokes gentle fun at a group of eccentric characters and their circumstances. Some of the situations are so silly that you know they were added purely to make the audience laugh.
    I admit that I was a little surprised at the liberal use of profanity. I cringed a little during the first five minutes and was aware of the discomfort of some of the audience members sitting around me.
    However as the film progressed I found myself enjoying the comic situations and beautiful Pennsylvania scenery. I especially liked the final segment about the Hollywood writer and the Amish woman. Her use of a very explicit four letter word did exactly what it was meant to do. It shocked the audience and it shocked the Hollywood writer. It made us want to know more about this woman who was behaving so contrary to our preconceived notions of Amish behavior.

    February 23, 2009 2:56 PM

    Comment by carolyncholland — February 23, 2009 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  6. In the spirit of fairness, here are some comments from audiences who have seen the film that enjoyed it:

    Awesome movie! I’m quite happy I was able to see it last night at in San Francisco. Loved it, I did! One of my friends who came with is a filmmaker. He was very impressed. You did such a fabulous job capturing the essence of quirky, gentle, and pseudo toughness of the people from that area. If (when) you come to Santa Cruz, I will look forward to seeing it again. -K Swartz (fayetteville native)

    I was very impressed. What a pitch perfect film. Part 3 (the story about the Amish woman starring Dana Delaney) was a story that resonated deeply with me. I grew up in Pennsylvania (in Perkasie, between Quakertown and Doylestown) and what really stood out to me in your film was how distinctively Pennsylvanian the characters were. The whole film felt like a family reunion. -D. Hauslin

    Congratulations again on “Route 30.” What a wonderful movie! We all enjoyed it so much. The stories and characters are so original and enjoyable to watch. And the location itself is such an important character in the movie. It was like taking a trip home for Deborah and I (having grown up in Ohio), and we loved the brilliant fall colors and the small midwestern town atmosphere and sensibilities that you captured so beautifully. It’s clear that your positive attitude coupled with great organization and planning made it possible for you to make such a polished and entertaining film on a very small budget in an amazingly short time. Thank you so much for inviting us and making it possible for all of us to attend. -B Humphrey

    Oh my goodness my husband and I went to the Gettysburg showing. We ABSOLUTELY LOVED that movie! – C. Cullison

    Route 30, the movie is visually lucious, hilarious, smart and touching. It was exhilarating to watch a flawless expedition into ensemble motion picture crafting from a point of view that was at once, universal and personal. Thank you for taking the time and captivating your professional and non-professional friends into landing in our home place and leaving our region with a moving picture that reminds us just how blessed we are here in the shadow of those scrubby pine mountains. I can’t wait to see the picture again and look forward to sharing it with more friends. – P. Leeper (Fayetteville, PA)

    It is a damn damn good film, full of heart, surprise, good old-fashioned
    concern for character and it’s funny as hell too. The section with Dana Delany and David DeLuise is a brilliant gem, and I think it is the best performance Ms. Delany has ever given. And I loved the Jenny
    Wade tour guide too..I wasnt aware of her work before but she is on my radar
    now. And Mr. Ed…great great face and presence. All in all, it’s a
    five-figure cinematic gem that is going to be embraced by the public at large…you
    really have created something unique and memorable and simple and non-pretentious
    and HUMAN, which in this day and age is a minor miracle in and of itself. -J. Burr

    Comment by Route 30 rebuttal — February 24, 2009 @ 6:38 am | Reply

  7. In the spirit of fairness, I wrote this review. Rarely have I been to a film where people walked out. This tells me that I am not alone in my opinions, although most of what I’ve seen an be considered “rave reviews.” Thanks for the rebuttal, but it doesn’t change my mind. Carolyn

    Comment by carolyncholland — February 24, 2009 @ 9:45 am | Reply

  8. Where to begin… read prior, what the film is about if you expect a cookie cutter story about our town, curse words were not used for shock value…I guess they’re honestly commonly used regularly outside the sheetz. Trust me,. we were holding back… Oh and the “pot smoking” was not to advertise and promote the area’s drug problem, but, really, you’re gona blast us for bringing it up? ,don’t be scared to embrace it, our town,, we do, and we do love it so much,,, as should you..

    Comment by Alicia — November 8, 2010 @ 6:06 am | Reply

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