In the surprisingly touching new film “Sam & Kate”, Sissy Spacek and Dustin Hoffman co-star with their real-life respective offspring, playing their fictional daughter and son. While this could be seen as stunt casting, what transpires is a deeply felt character piece about loss and the eternal connection we have to our parents.
Working an aimless job at a candy factory with his friend, Ron (Henry Thomas), Sam (Jake Hoffman) is an aspiring artist living in a small Georgia town with his father, Bill (Dustin Hoffman).
Kate (Schuyler Fisk) is the owner of a bookstore who spends daily time with her mom, Tina (Sissy Spacek). The two live separately.
Sam and Kate have met before, when he visited her bookstore and tried to asker her out. In a kind manner, Kate declined.
Each family is living in the wake of different levels of loss and regret.
After a Christmas Eve church service that finds all four in attendance, Kate has car troubles. Bill and Sam offer them a ride home and help to fix the car. As a thank you, Sam and Bill join the two women for dinner.
There is a visible connection between Sam and Kate and even their parents seem to be a bit smitten with one another.
Sam convinces Kate to join him on a for some New Year’s Eve roller skating at the local rink, while Bill and Tina go out for dinner, the first real connection (outside of their children) in many a year.
The film’s screenplay was written by the director Darren Le Gallo and executive produced by his wife, actress Amy Adams. Le Gallo’s work is imbued with a natural authenticity that is missing in films cut from this same cloth; the “family drama”.
After toiling in supporting roles in uninteresting projects for years, Schuyler Fisk has matured into quite the actress and Kate is the role for her skills to be revealed.
As the character lowers her emotional defenses, the heartbreaking reason for the unwillingness to let herself become involved is revealed.
Fisk is tremendous in her scenes of pain and joy. There isn’t a wrong step taken by the actress and every dramatic beat is navigated with an instinct of an old pro.
An accomplished musician as well, Schuyler Fisk composed a song for the film (which Kate performs) that will bring to light the film’s true meaning and break your heart.
Jake Hoffman is equally intoxicating as Sam. While on the surface, the character could be misconstrued as another thirty-something looking for his place in life, Hoffman (and the film) is too smart for this. The pain he Carrie’s within him is a myriad of different curve balls life has thrown his way.
Using a genuine and unmannered style, the actor endears Sam to the audience and viewers feel for him and root for his success in life and love.
It goes without saying that Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek are masters of their craft. The two legends are terrific in their scenes together or apart.
Spacey and Hoffman wouldn’t dare resort to hackneyed acting choices in any film, even their least interesting ones (of which this most certainly is not). The craft is everything for these actors and in this film, their characters represent decades of painful secrets that have disconnected each one from their happiness.
Le Gallo’s film is one of truths and humanity. It is not one to dissect and examine. The characters are real and, as we come to know each one, we feel their respective pain deeply.
The advertising and promotion for this film is completely misleading. It is being sold as a “Rom-Com” or seriocomic “Family issues” picture.
“Sam & Kate” is miles ahead of this type of film. Do not fall for the ridiculously edited trailer.
There is no “meet cute” for the two leads, no goofy scenes of the elderly being humorously cantankerous, and not one scene plays out as we would expect.
Through the skilled performances by the four leads, unassuming direction, and a screenplay that shuns expectations, Darren Le Gallo crafted a film of honest human connection.
Sam & Kate
Written & Directed by Darren Le Gallo
Starring Schuyler Fisk, Jake Hoffman, Sissy Spacek, Dustin Hoffman, Henry Thomas
R, 110 Minutes, Story in the Sky/Volition Media Partners