A Less than Fitting Tribute
My introduction to the stories of Nora Roberts' came via "Angels Fall" a TV movie which whilst very typical of a TV movie was pleasantly entertaining. So when I spotted "Tribute" another TV adaptation from a Nora Roberts' story I was hoping I would be just as pleasantly entertained. Sadly I wasn't because whilst the actual storyline to "Tribute" is entertaining the way it comes across borders on the corny with certain elements over emphasized and in doing so making it feel daft. It also doesn't feature the greatest performances from a cast of recognizable young faces such as Brittany Murphy and Jason Lewis as well as a few older ones including Tippi Hedren.
Former child star Cilla McGowan (Brittany Murphy - Just Married) decides to take her contractors exam so that she can develop houses, which is part of the reason why she is renovating her deceased Grandmother's old home. As she sets about doing up the dilapidated property she not only meets various locals but also graphic artist Ford Sawyer (Jason Lewis) who hits it off with her. But she also meets the Hennessey's who take an instant dislike to her due to something which happened in the past between the McGowan family and theirs. But she also discovers in a series of letters that before her grandmother committed suicide she was having an affair and was pregnant, leading Cilla to question whether it was suicide and leads to her getting a series of death threats as someone clearly doesn't want her there digging around in the past.
The thing about Nora Roberts' "Tribute" is that I am sure in adaptation from book to screen some things have been missed out whilst others have been changed and embellished. It means that "Tribute" does feel quite familiar and a little cliche as we have this story of a young woman doing up the house which belonged to her grandmother. We may get this amusing angle that Cilla McGowan was a child star and so recognized by many people but the basis of a woman doing up a deceased relative's house has been done before. And so has the element that whilst having never met her grandmother the house delivers a supernatural element where Cilla ends up talking to her grandmother in a series of dreams. This side of thing is overplayed and ends up being very cheesy as Cilla seems to go back in time and chats with her grandmother.
Of course "Tribute" is not just about these cheesy dreams as whilst doing up the house Cilla discovers that prior to her grandmother's suicide she had been having an affair with a married man and was in fact pregnant. And so she begins to question whether it was suicide and digs into what really happened, who the mystery married man was she was having an affair with. As such we also get an element that someone doesn't want Cilla there and we get various suspects such as the angry Mr. & Mrs. Hennessey who blame the McGowan family for the death of their son. The sad thing is that whilst we have Cilla digging around for info and getting death threats the big reveal sadly plucks someone out of thin air. It means that whilst you may be entertained by trying to work out who Cilla's stalker is when the reveal comes you feel let down.
Oh and just for good measure having Cilla being young, free and single means we have to have a romantic subplot which sees her hook up with Ford, the graphic novelist who lives across the street. And of course we also start wondering whether he is some crazed fan who is tormenting her with threats to get her into bed especially as he is such a nice guy.
The annoying this is that whilst familiar "Tribute" does have some nice ideas and the whole thing about Cilla being a former child star and coming from an acting dynasty could have been so much better if it had been played upon. There is a minor mention of the Barrymore dynasty and if only they had embellished this similarity and played on it a lot more then it would have been a distraction from some of the flaws. And whilst the whole romantic subplot between Cilla and Ford is a cliche it again could have been played on a lot more so that he was more of a suspect. Even the whole history surrounding Mr. & Mrs Hennessey could have been tighter to be more thrilling, especially when you have Tippi Hedren seriously under used as Mrs. Hennessey.
But none of this is helped by the range of wooden acting on show and sadly whilst the various young actors such as Brittany Murphy, Jason Lewis, Christian Oliver and Griff Furst may look good everything they do is forced. Watching Brittany Murphy as Cilla swinging a sledge hammer is so wrong almost as wrong as the level of nicety which Jason Lewis delivers as Ford Sawyer. And sadly the older actors such as Tippi Hedren, Wallace Merck and Diana Scarwid are serious under used.
What this all boils down to is that "Tribute" is sadly not as good as I hoped and suffers because certain elements of the storyline have been too embellished whilst others have been under explored. It is entertaining but almost in that it borders on the cheesily amusing rather than for being a tight and exciting thriller.