Beautiful Ohio
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It seems as though William Messerman (Brett Davern) will never be able to make his way out of his older brother’s shadow. Clive (David Call) is a genius, plain and simple. He’s able to win math competitions without even trying. And although his parents adore him, Clive has distanced himself from his family—and from his little brother. He prefers to spend his time in his room, smoking pot with his best friend, Elliot (Hale Appleman), and his girlfriend, Sandra (Michelle Trachtenberg), who secretly moved into the Messerman’s basement after running away from home. To add even more distance between him and his brother, Clive also speaks some made-up language that no one understands but Elliot.

Meanwhile, William is just a normal kid. He’s an average student. He practices the piano constantly—because his mother, Judith (Rita Wilson), is trying to turn him into a professional pianist. He tags along on the family’s trips to Clive’s math competitions, and he celebrates each of his brother’s achievements. And he secretly has a crush on Sandra. All he really wants is to understand his brother’s secret language—and to be accepted by his talented and mysterious big brother. So when he finds half of Clive’s secret dictionary, he does everything he can to find the other half. And when he discovers Sandra living in the basement, he goes out of his way to keep her secret and make her comfortable.

This ‘70s coming-of-age story directed by Chad Lowe is a perplexing film with no real beginning and no real end. We know very little about any of the characters—and I found it difficult to care about any of them. The military dad (William Hurt) and the dissatisfied mom constantly recite quotes by famous poets and thinkers, and it doesn’t help to make them endearing. Clive seems like an arrogant jerk—and it’s hard to care about what happens to him. And while I knew I was supposed to like William, I just couldn’t understand what he really wanted or why.

Throughout the film, not much really happens, and it feels like it’s missing something important—like a point. There’s not much of a story, and what there is isn’t very interesting. And when the big revelations come in the end, I just didn’t care—nor I did find the big surprise to be the least bit shocking.

I struggled to keep myself awake through Beautiful Ohio. But when it was all over, I found myself wishing I hadn’t.

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