Director: John Doyle
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Colin Firth, Orlando Bloom, Patricia Clarkson, Amber Tamblyn
On paper, there is much to recommend this serious-minded contemporary drama about the tough choices facing a small American community in the grip of recession.
Firth plays a smooth-talking businessman who presents a Faustian choice to a depressed North Carolina town, renting a disused warehouse to store mysterious canisters full of toxic waste. Torn between economic regeneration and potentially lethal health risks, the townsfolk become embroiled in a bitter battle over their shared future.
Main Street boasts a topical theme and an impressive ensemble cast, including the Hollywood veteran Burstyn as the conflicted warehouse owner and Bloom as an ambitious young police officer. But the end result is badly let down by its leaden script, aimless subplots and sketchy characterisation.
A director such as John Sayles or Robert Altman might have found emotional bite and quirky humour in these small-town political intrigues, but the big-screen novice Doyle seems unable to generate any tension from potentially juicy material. Firth and Bloom also struggle with wobbly American accents, adding to the overall sense of half-baked amateur dramatics.
Sadly, Main Street was the final finished work of the Texas-born screenwriter Horton Foote, the esteemed winner of numerous awards including a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar for his much-loved adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Foote died at the ripe old age of 92, shortly before this film was completed, so perhaps we can forgive its tired and clunky feel. Even so, this well-meaning but undercooked drama is certainly not a fitting epitaph to a once-proud career.