Starring Ryan Grantham, Jennifer Copping, and Scott Hylands. Rated PG.
Describing little, longhaired Redwood Forest Hanson as an eccentric kid is like saying Jack Nicklaus was an okay golfer.
The title character in Jesse James Miller’s new Vancouver-made flick is an 11-year-old who escapes his family dysfunction through an ongoing imaginary match with the Golden Bear. He may be just chipping away with a rusted-out iron on an unmowed front lawn, but in his mind he’s on the Augusta links at seven under par.
Redwood holds on to the deluded hope that winning the Masters’ “magical” green jacket will bring his parents back together. If the whole setup sounds far-fetched and strained, well, it is. But Redwood is so lovingly made in all its retro-’70s afghans and bad plaid stretchies, and its acting is so true, that you probably won’t mind walking its quirky fairways.
Redwood (Ryan Grantham) ends up in Canada in his draft-dodging, dope-dealing dad’s house. But when the law catches up with permastoned Ethan (Chad Willett), Redwood gets shipped to America to live with his estranged mother, Jade (Jennifer Copping), on the isolated farm she shares with her husband, Arnold (Derek Hamilton), and his two teen boys. Arnold tries to make a man out of Redwood—often by brute force. The boy’s only respite comes from a semideranged grandpa (charismatic Scott Hylands) who lives in the basement and knows a lot about Nicklaus’s swing.
Despite a truly heinous wig, Grantham makes the most of his strange role, deadpanning the stiff TV commentary that accompanies his imaginary game and taking whatever abuse is thrown his way with a quiet, shell-shocked acceptance.
Miller is reaching for a kind of edgy, bittersweet Little Miss Sunshine hilarity here, and there are some laughs. But the script forces its golf metaphors and swings a little too frequently into cliché.
Still, Becoming Redwood looks great and refuses to tie up its coming-of-age story too neatly. Let’s call it a bogey, but one that’s beautifully shot.