As we've learned from the recent mystery surrounding "Trespass," the forthcoming Nicole Kidman/Nicolas Cage movie that's practically sneaking into theaters soon, just because your movie has big stars doesn't mean it'll get a big publicity push. Now comes "Fireflies in the Garden," which will be released October 14. It stars Julia Roberts and Ryan Reynolds. You've probably never heard of it. You're not the only one -- and this thing's been around since 2008.
The film, a multi-generational, time-shifting family drama, will be coming out only in limited release and will be self-distributed by the filmmakers. How could this have happened? To backtrack, "Fireflies in the Garden" was written and directed by Dennis Lee, who had previously made the award-winning short "Jesus Henry Christ." "Fireflies" is about a family (led by mother Julia Roberts, father Willem Dafoe and son Ryan Reynolds) contending with a tragic car accident and was inspired by the death of Lee's mother. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2008, where it received a pretty dismissive review from Variety, which called it a "clumsy melodrama, which looks and sounds no better than an average made-for-cabler." (They also singled out Roberts' cinematographer husband, Danny Moder, for "Flat lighting and wan lensing [that] doesn't do the actors any favors.")
Still, the movie opened in several countries over the next year, just not the U.S. That seems to be because Senator Entertainment, which was handling the film, went belly-up in 2009. Only recently did the producers regain the rights to "Fireflies in the Garden" so that they could put the film onto American screens.
Variety wasn't alone in disliking "Fireflies in the Garden," but you'd have to assume that curious Roberts or Reynolds fans may try to seek it out regardless. Even then, though, the betting is that this movie probably won't do massive box office. Which is fine if that happens -- hey, not every movie is a hit -- but we'd like for writers not to use the possible under-performance of "Fireflies" to be "proof" that Roberts or Reynolds don't have drawing power. They've both had miserable summers, Reynolds in particular, but this modest-sounding indie with the big cast probably shouldn't qualify as a "flop." If anything, it should be an example of how even A-list stars' movies can very nearly fall through the cracks.
Julia Roberts pic sets release [Variety]