Elvis & Anabelle
Blake Lively ("Gossip Girl") and Max Minghella (Syriana) star in this sexy, romantic love story with an unusual twist. Groomed to be the perfect pageant candidate, Anabelle (Lively) is on the verge of winning it all when she tragically dies onstage. Her body is delivered to the funeral home of Elvis's family, but just as she is ready to be embalmed, her spirit returns. Trying to make sense of it all, she turns to Elvis (Minghella) for comfort and finds a new chance at love. But after death has brought them together, will life tear them apart?
First off, in most of America, the Funeral Home is the nicest house in town. In Elvis & Anabelle it looks like the house from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Much like "Six Feet Under," this is an oddball take on life in a funeral home, where Elvis Moreau (Max Minghella, looking about all of eighteen) takes pictures of every "guest," sometimes with props. When he finds Anabelle Leigh (ahem), the local bulemic beauty queen, on his slab, the last things one would expect are resurrection and love.
Admittedly, "during embalming" is perhaps not the best way to "meet cute." At least, not this side of Re-Animator. The type of movie one uses "quirky" and "idiosyncratic" to describe, it's set in some concept of Texas that could only exist within a film. Anabelle understandably winds up attracted to the Mortuary and, by extension, to Max. In this odd structure they go on to have a pretty standard "opposites attract" love story. If you've seen a lot of these Indies you'll be groaning when they start painting the house together, but the movie's heart is in the right place. Stifled at home, she runs away to live with the Moreaus, leading her mother to start a manhunt.
The kids go on the lam for the last third of the film and you know they'll grow closer as they learn to embrace life in a travel and trying-on-clothes montage. Even as the other shoe eventually drops, they're still worth joining along their trip, though the end of the film features events that may alienate viewers who's lives have been touched by certain types of loss.
Keith Carradine, Mary Steenburgen, and Joe Mantegna (getting to play both physical and mental handicaps) all shine and seem to be having a good ol' time. Minghella and Blake Lively both show promise for relative newcomers. It's also no stretch for Lively to be playing a beauty queen, though she doesn't sell the Texas accent quite as well. The movie looks good, with a soundtrack that, like everything here, screams "Indie Film." Familiarity and morbidity aside, Elvis & Anabelle is mostly a sweet and generous love story.
Elvis & Anabelle is presented in widescreen and English 5.1 Dolby digital audio. The disc features English and Spanish subtitles, trailers and a featurette interview with writer/director Will Geiger.
The patented "Quirky Indie Romance" with a hit of death and a scoop of Texas oddity, Elvis & Anabelle benefits from great actors, but suffers for coming after far too many of its type. The film is sweet and romantic enough to overcome some odd choices and lazy plot points to be an overall rewarding date night watch.