We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Peter Fonda was never an action hero in the first place. Tall, introverted and sensitive, he was best cast in his breakthrough role, as Captain America, a hippie motorcyclist on an odyssey, in “Easy Rider” (1968). His films since are an undistinguished collection of action and exploitation pictures; the rare good film like “The Hired Hand” (1971) looks lonely in such company. Now, at 57, he has found the role of a lifetime--perhaps the role that points the way to a reborn career.
In “Ulee's Gold,” he plays Ulysses Jackson, a beekeeper in the Florida panhandle who has a lot on his mind. He was the only survivor of his Vietnam unit. His wife died six years ago. His son is in prison on a robbery charge, and he is bringing up his two granddaughters as best he can. He is a very lonely man, but he loves his work: “The bees and I have an understanding.” He hasn't spoken to his son Jimmy (Tom Wood) in two years, when one day a call comes. He goes to visit the boy in prison. The son asks for help: His wife, Helen (Christine Dunford), has turned up in bad shape, and is staying with Eddie and Ferris, the two guys Jimmy pulled the robbery with. Jimmy wants Ulee to get Helen and take care of her.
“She can just stay gone,” Ulee says. “She's sick, Dad,” says Jimmy. So Ulee drives his pickup truck down to where Ferris and Eddie (Dewey Weber and Steven Flynn) are holed up in a flophouse with Helen, who is strung out on drugs and madness. And he hauls Helen home, although not before the two men tell him they believe Jimmy hid $100,000 from the robbery, and they want it back--or they will come after the grandchildren.
A woman named Connie (Patricia Richardson, from TV's “Home Improvement”) lives across the street from Ulee. She's a nurse, divorced twice, no children. The granddaughters like her, and when they see the shape their mother is in, they drag her across the street to help. Helen needs a lot of help. Sedatives, restraints, the whole detox process. Ulee tries to thank Connie. “It's what I do,” she says.