Raising Buchanan - Movie Review by Ben Cahlamer

Cathy Shim, Jennifer Pfalzgraff, and Amanda Melby in Raising Buchanan. Photo Credit: Raising Buchanan/PBATHW LLC

Cathy Shim, Jennifer Pfalzgraff, and Amanda Melby in Raising Buchanan. Photo Credit: Raising Buchanan/PBATHW LLC

Written and Directed: by Bruce Dellis

Starring: Rene Auberjonois, Amanda Melby, Cathy Shim, Terence Hines, M. Emmet Walsh, Jennifer Pfalzgraff, Steve Briscoe

If you were so desperate to solve a financial challenge, would you consider stealing and ransoming a dead president’s body?

This is the situation that confronts, and confounds Ruth Kiesling (Amanda Melby) in “Raising Buchanan.” If Bruce Dellis’s film sounds like a horror story gone wrong, you couldn’t get further from the truth. Dellis’s screenplay is full of witticism, cynicism, and wisdom as Ruth, a donut shop employee with anger management issues tries to figure her way out of serval messes, including how to get away with the aforementioned theft and ransom.

Dellis’ ingeniously manages to portray Ruth in two lights – the first is in her irrational physical world, those filled with the problems that plague many of us, which makes the film relatable. In this world, Ruth has friends, namely her roommates, Meg (Cathy Shim) and Holly (Jennifer Pfalzgraff) along with Philip Crosby (Terence Hines), her probation officer.

The way the characters interact with Ruth is imaginative; Meg and Holly are the “plucky comic relief” characters in that they know Ruth and try to support her through her ordeal as best as they can, especially when it comes to her father, Larry (M. Emmet Walsh). The story works Meg and Holly’s comedy in with Ruth’s allowing Melby to shine; even in her most depressive state, she is a hoot.

Ruth is portrayed in a second light that relates to both James Buchanan (Rene Auberjonois) and an egotistical ventriloquist, Errol (Steve Briscoe). As she comes across his body and hatches her scheme, Dellis places us in Ruth’s head, allowing us to see the higher reasoning behind what makes her tick. In the physical world, Ruth plays cello on a series of popular You Tube videos featuring Errol.

Within this, we see Ruth interacting with Buchanan in his own time, using the cello as a gateway between the two sides of Ruth, making for a unique look at how we rationalize irrational thoughts. Auberjonois, who has a long history of comedic roles and is known for his dry humor was the perfect actor to play Buchanan; he has an aristocratic way about himself that plays beautifully off Ruth, who is just a snide and snarky in her mind as she is in the real world.

The snarky side plays beautifully off of her probation officer. There’s a hilarious scene as he visits Ruth at the donut shop as they discuss her anger issues and how she’s dealing with them. As she gets deeper in to her own mess, though, she realizes that no one seems particularly interested in Buchanan’s body, giving rise to antics that matches the ongoing chase in Stanley Kramer’s “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” – the characters are all so crisscrossed that the prize becomes less important than the goal – finding the best in ourselves.

“Raising Buchanan” was a highlight at the 2019 Phoenix Film Festival, full of laughter and is an excellent example of how our creative outlets can help us cope even when the situation is bad. The film plays exclusively at Harkins Scottsdale Shea.

3 out of 4