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Barefoot is a new romantic comedy film from director Andrew Fleming (Hamlet 2, Nancy Drew) and it has a screenplay from Stephen Zotnowski, who is a first time screenwriter. The film was produced by Lisa Demetree, David Pomier, and David Scharf and has been given a release by Lionsgate.
The story begins by introducing the audience to Jay Wheeler (Scott Speedman), who is an over the top person in virtually every way. Jay gets into a lot of trouble with everyone around him as well as the law. He is on probation because of numerous offenses and he has had one big thing happen over and open again. He is now working in a mental hospital as a janitor who mops the floors. He had a somewhat better position at the institution, but was reprimanded for getting in more trouble while working there.
One day a new patient is brought into the hospital. Her name is Daisy (Evan Rachel Wood), and Jay helps her out when she runs into some trouble. But in a manner of moments he is leaving the hospital and she tags along. He decides to invite her to go to his brother's wedding because he's without a girlfriend - he doesn't take anyone seriously. She accepts and before long she thinks they are boyfriend and girlfriend.
The story of Daisy begins to unfold, too. Daisy eventually tells Jay that she was in the institution for hearing voices and that she had killed her mother... but then why does Daisy seem so carefree and sweet hearted throughout everything else that happens in the movie? Jay suspects that there might be something more to this and throughout their journey he learns more about her history with her mother. It leads to Jay hearing from Daisy what actually happened. This all happens over the course of the film as they attend Jay's brother's wedding, go on a huge road trip, and ultimately wind up back to their hometown with a romance now brewing between them.
The film aims squarely to be a humorous, laugh-out-loud comedy in significant portions and sometimes it wants to interject the comedic moments with dramatic relevant. Unfortunately, everything about this movie seemed undercooked and underdeveloped as a narrative and as something truly compelling for its direction and characters. Perhaps the first big issue with Barefoot is that the film isn't even remotely funny. The events that occur and the way the storytelling unfolds doesn't lend itself to being that humorous and the delivery from both screenwriter Stephen Zotnowski and director Andrew Fleming feels unpolished and quite detached.
One thing that stood out to me is that both Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood were attempting to do the best they could with the material. Wood is especially talented, but unquestionably given a part unworthy of her talents here. Daisy is written as an aloof or unintelligent character. Part of this is that the screenwriter has written Daisy as having a sheltered upbringing from her mother but the writing does not account for factors that a screenplay with more wit would remember to focus on.. instead, the character feels too underdeveloped; as if part of a comedy sketch for an unusual character you don't get to understand.
The character of Jay, on the other hand, is someone I had a hard time pinpointing or figuring out with regards to the script's delivered "character development" (if you can actually call it that). It underwhelmed to see his character take on a prominence within the story while the script also makes Jay so generally unlikeable. The supposedly romantic undertones of the film feel like a huge missed opportunity, too. I don't think all audiences will root for these two to be together. There is not a lot to make one think these characters belong together and this is cemented by a screenplay that didn't develop believable characters that an audience can easily root for winding up together by the concluding act.
Andrew Fleming doesn't do the greatest job as a filmmaker as the ebb and flow of the film feels chaotic, messy, and unfocused. It makes the entire experience of the film feel uneventful even though the script, with all of its shortcomings, is trying to put things into an 'over-drive' mode (which is something that would be difficult to properly realize). The editing by Tara Timpone doesn't help matters. The pacing is one of the worst things about Barefoot and this is at least partially due to the editing work, which feels quite uninspired.
In the end, Barefoot feels like a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that doesn't manage to bring successful storytelling or characterization despite two leading actors who are trying their best with the material, and an unusual plot and characters who one wouldn't typically find in such romantic comedy efforts. This film is by no means a good movie and I found the film to feel both laborious and poorly constructed. Unfortunately, Barefoot is significantly underwhelming.
Barefoot arrives on DVD with a pretty solid transfer that retains the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are generally strong, the clarity is decent, and the entire film has the sheen of a nicely produced modern production. There are no glaring issues with compression and other artifacts.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio presentation is decent enough with some occasionally interesting surround activity and good dialogue reproduction. There is nothing overtly fancy about the soundstage design, but it's an adequate and decently crisp rendering that works well for the movie.
The only extra on this release is the inclusion of a Digital Ultraviolet code inside the packaging.
Final Thoughts:Barefoot aims to be an enjoyably lighthearted romantic comedy but it fails to muster up comedy, good characterization, and solid storytelling. This film is a misfire that simply doesn't work as it was intended. It's only enjoyable factors are found within the inherent charisma of the lead performers and a nice supporting part by the great character-actor J.K. Simmons, even though he has very little screen-time in the movie. For dedicated fans of Evan Rachel Wood, Scott Speedman, or J.K. Simmons this might be worthy of a rental but this film is by no means recommended.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.