‘John From Cincinnati,’ June 10, HBO
Surfing has brought the Yost family patriarch fame and bitterness, as well as greater fame and addiction to his enraged son. Now, his 13-year-old grandson stands on the brink of competition as the expletive-laden 10-part drama series "John From Cincinnati" premieres Sunday, June 10, 10-11 p.m. EDT on the HBO pay-cable channel. The series continues Sundays in its regular time slot, 9-10 p.m. EDT.
In a southern Californian town near the Mexican border live three generations of the loudly dysfunctional Yost family. After master surfer Mitch (Bruce Greenwood) wrecked his knee he opened a boardwalk surfing shop to stay near the sport with long-suffering wife Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay) and their surfing-fanatic son, Butchie (Brian Van Holt).
Their son's skills were legendary until the lure of drugs eventually reduced Butchie to an infuriated monster, squatting in a fleabag motel, unable to care for his quiet, surf-happy son, Shaun (Greyson Fletcher). Strange things are happening: Shaun sees a dead caged bird suddenly revive and Mitch finds himself inexplicably levitating.
Aside from the welcome innocence of Shaun, who's convinced his grandmother Cissy to OK entry into his first competition, the Yosts seem unable to communicate without ear-piercing, four-letter-word screaming matches. And they are surrounded by similarly bizarre characters, such as a loony lottery winner, a crazed, immigrant-smuggling Vietnam vet, a bird-obsessed ex-cop, Butchie's toxic drug dealer, a duplicitous sports agent, and, most of all, the mysterious John from Cincinnati (Austin Nichols).
Seemingly dense but carrying a fortune in cash, John turns it over to greedy Butchie apparently in exchange for personal surfing lessons. However, John's presence is sure to unbalance the already off-kilter assortment of eccentrics and manipulators who populate the unsympathetic narrative.
Some fabulous surfing footage near the end of the premiere hour is a reward for enduring all the hostile and hateful exchanges that offer little inducement to continue following John and the Yosts' progress. At least the second hour makes a stab at some character development. For those who can tolerate the continued assault on the ears in hopes that the humanity of the characters may start to emerge, the quality of the performances makes this a distinct possibility.
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Pare, a retired director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is film critic for Liguorian magazine.
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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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