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Review: 'The World Made Straight' is too laidback

Noah Wyle and Jeremy Irvine head up a large cast in a story that meanders too much.
The World Made Straight

Minka Kelly and Steve Earle join Noah Wyle in the Appalachian drama "The World MadMillenium Entertainment

‘The World Made Straight’
Director:
David Burris
Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Noah Wyle
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

There’s such a thing as being too laidback, and the inaptly named “The World Made Straight” is that friend of a friend of a friend who takes too long to finish a terminally meandering, half-engaging story. It’s based on a novel, by Ron Rash, and it feels like it. There’s an Altmanesque spread of characters bobbing and weaving through the sleepy narrative, as well as an insistent streak about the trauma of Civil War events haunting the present (actually the 1960s, though it never once feels like it, given that its rural South setting seems to have existed since time incarnate). Thanks to the beyond languid-pacing, thick redneck vibe and relentless sad bastard music, it takes far longer than would seem legal to realize you’re dealing with a tale that feels too familiar — and not of ones you ever needed to hear again.

Much like Michael Caine in Otto Preminger’s “Hurry Sundown,” only with a better grasp on the cartoonish accent, English actor Jeremy Irvine (“War Horse”) heads to down South (here, the Appalachians), where some doings are transpiring. Actually, there aren’t many doings, nor are they transpiring much. He’s Travis, a good ol’ boy who wears a Confederate flag T-shirt and hangs around with a relentlessly giggling beer buddy Haley Joel Osment. Thanks to a crappy dad, Travis winds up needing a bed to crash on, which takes him to disgraced English teacher-turned-sad beardo pot dealer Leonard (Noah Wyle, who, it can’t be stressed enough, rocks a sad movie beard). Leonard takes to puffing up Travis’ ego, getting him to ditch the fun time friends and hit the books, maybe put a move on that cute nurse that tended to his leg when it got caught in a bear trap (looong story).

There’s also cover girl Minka Kelly not particularly dirtying herself up enough as a drug addict who shares Leonard’s bed, plus an evil drug lord who moonlights as a singer, which makes more sense since it’s Steve Earle. Earle, and his character, are the best parts of “The World Made Straight” — spaced-out pockets of quirk and crunchy aphorisms (“Landscape is destiny”) that enliven a film that never bothers to sit up and take its boots off the desk in front of it. Everyone else is a thin caricature sometimes filled out by commanding performances. Wyle manages to overcome the misery beard to suggest real, not affectated, remorse for a life that went off the skids, and though he has zero characterization to play, Osment, as in “Tusk,” is eking out a strangely endearing existence as people who just laugh and laugh and laugh. At least someone’s having fun.

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