Sensitive and pouty teen Sonya Weiler (Balk) is enrolled in a high-toned girls' school because her shiftless father Ray (Keitel) made a promise to her dying mother (Lynch). Sonya pours her family problems into essays that attract the attention of a caring English teacher (D'Onofrio). Meanwhile, Ray hustles a dud mining claim into a business sub-plot involving Seymour Cassel and Chris Penn. Familial angst ensues.
Having made an earnest debut under the name Tony Drazan with Zebrahead, a hip-hop teen movie about race relations in a modern high school, the promising, if not actually delivering, director opts for the more grown-up moniker of Anthony Drazan for his second film. This still focuses on troubled families in which the children are more mature than their parents but hops back in time to an ambiguously nostalgic 1962. Ditching Zebrahead's Gunz N The Hood cliches, it unfortunately replaces them with a new bunch of loveable but delinquent dad cliches.
Keitel, more than ever the most exciting screen actor of his generation, shows his rare tender side as a man who seems a scumball in everything except his relationship with his two daughters. Balk gets her best acting showcase yet as an amazingly believable 1962 teenager who misses out on adolescence because she has to mother her father and sister. But the script has stretches of pure corn and the plot mechanics get in the way of the actor's genuine feeling.
It tries hard, but it's far too slight to click on the big screen.