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SEX, DEATH AND BOWL­ING, campy fam­ily drama, rated R, Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 3 chiles Santa Fe na­tive Ally Walker is an ac­tress known for play­ing the ti­tle role on the 1990s NBC drama The Pro­filer, and more re­cently for the re­cur­ring char­ac­ter Agent June Stahl on Sons of An­ar­chy. Now she has writ­ten and di­rected Sex, Death and Bowl­ing, a campy, bor­der­line-mag­i­cal-re­al­ist tear­jerker set in a small Western moun­tain town, about a lit­tle boy whose fa­ther is dy­ing of can­cer. The movie is wildly earnest and in­ven­tive in its ef­forts to fully por­tray the psy­chol­ogy of a frac­tured fam­ily at a crit­i­cal mo­ment.

Eli McAl­lis­ter (Joshua Rush) is a preter­nat­u­rally in­tel­li­gent, sen­si­tive eleven-year-old who is on a quest to dis­cover where peo­ple go when they die. Eli’s fa­ther, Rick (Bai­ley Chase), is a vet­eran of the Iraq War who is now in hospice. His mother, Glenn (Selma Blair), has stopped show­er­ing in fa­vor of keep­ing a vigil at her hus­band’s bed­side, where she be­comes in­creas­ingly fu­ri­ous with the hospice nurse, Ana (Drea de Mat­teo), who keeps Rick se­dated on mor­phine. Eli’s un­cle, Sean (Adrian Gre­nier), who comes to town to see his brother, is a suc­cess­ful fash­ion de­signer who has been liv­ing in Eng­land. Eli’s grand­fa­ther, Dick (Daniel Hugh Kelly), has a very kind girl­friend, Evie (Melora Wal­ters), who of­ten looks af­ter Eli. Dick is also the leader of a bowl­ing team that is about to com­pete in an an­nual league tour­na­ment that they’ve bowled for a gen­er­a­tion or more, and for which Eli keeps score. But their best bowlers — in­clud­ing Rick — are un­able to com­pete this year. A rift be­tween Sean and Dick re­veals it­self, as Dick doesn’t ap­prove of Sean’s sex­u­al­ity and, pos­si­bly more shame­ful for this fam­ily, Sean’s not a very good bowler.

All of the act­ing by the im­pres­sive cast is very good — es­pe­cially Blair and Kelly — and all of the plots and ideas are in­trigu­ing, but Sex, Death

and Bowl­ing suf­fers un­der the weight of too much story. There is so much go­ing on that Eli’s re­ac­tions to his fa­ther’s mor­tal­ity and Sean’s reck­on­ing with his fa­ther’s decades-old dis­cov­ery of his sex­u­al­ity, in the end, come across as too pat and overly sen­ti­men­tal in a story that is al­ready sen­ti­men­tal by na­ture. Eli can be a lit­tle too spe­cial and won­der­ful to be be­lieved, yet it is strangely com­fort­ing to see how such a trust­ing lit­tle boy en­gages with so much grown-up sad­ness. — Jen­nifer Levin

Bed­side man­ners: Adrian Gre­nier, Bai­ley Chase, and Joshua Rush

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