The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003)
Written by Erica Beeney
Directed by Efram Potelle & Kyle Rankin
About the Movie: The Battle of Shaker Heights is an American dramedy film co-directed by Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin. It stars Shia La Beouf, Elden Henson, Kathleen Quinlan, Amy Smart and Shiri Appleby. The film was the winning script for the second season of Project Greenlight. It is the story of a young war reenactor who makes a friend on the battlefield who helps him use strategy to take on his high school enemy, and in some ways, his life. Fantasy and reality collide in this young man’s life which triggers a “coming of age” type of story to unfold.
Brief Synopsis: Kelly Ernswiler (Shia La Beouf), a young war reenactment enthusiast and overall outcast in his family and at his school, works at his local grocery store friend/co-worker Sarah (Shiri Appleby), who he does not recognize is interested in him as “more than friends“). Kelly’s father, Abe (William Sadler) works with drug addicts, being clean himself from heroin for over five years. His mother, Eve (Kathleen Quinlan) is a commercial artist.
Kelly meets Bart (Elden Henson) at an enactment and they become fast friends, bonding over shared interests and an “outcast” commonality. Bart’s family couldn’t be more different from Kelly’s, they are rich, privileged, and seemingly more close with each other. Bart’s older sister, Tabby (Amy Smart), is beautiful and “cool” seeming to Kelly, an artist herself, engaged to be married. Kelly falls hard for her, and harbors a delusion that she will be interested in him, too.
Kelly lives in a fantasy world, playing a part in the enactments, playing a part with Bart’s family while resenting and avoiding his own, and playing a part with his friends. Bart and Kelly devise a revenge attack on one of Kelly’s classmates that ends badly, Kelly’s Father becomes ill, and Tabby rejects him by going through with the wedding. Reality hits hard and Kelly has to come to terms with it, or risk losing the things he really has in his life. The climax of the movie revolves around that revelation, and what Kelly does to deal with the mess he’s made of his life.
Why I chose it: The supporting cast, especially Elden Henson and Shiri Appleby, and the fact that I love adolescent coming-of-age films, and I’d not heard of this one before.
My thoughts in three sentences: Though the movie’s pacing was off at times, and the characterization lack-luster with some characters, I did enjoy moments in the movie very much, especially between Kelly and Bart, and Kelly and Tabby. I wanted more characterization on Bart though, as well as of Sarah, and even Kelly needed to have more of a visible self, maybe through inner dialogue, or other interactions with Bart and Tabby. I wanted to like the film more than I did, as it kept having these moments of promise that never fully realized.
Best: Scenes between Kelly and Bart, Kelly and Tabby, and to some extent, Kelly and Sarah. Also, that the film reminded me that Shia La Beouf is a good actor despite Transformers roles, and a string of strange public antics.
Worst: The erratic pacing and the lack of characterization in most of the characters.
Rating (out of 5): 3