During the opening weekend of The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival young Jimmy Bennett won the Star on the Horizon Award.  The same award his “mother”, Michelle Monaghan, won one year ago at FLIFF in the movie “Trucker” (Michelle played Jimmy’s mother in that film).Jimmy has amassed quite a resume after being in such movies as “Orphan”, “Evan Almighty” and J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” playing the young James T, Kirk.  It was a great moment for the teenaged actor and the FLIFF members in the audience when he won his award.  Then his new movie, “Bones” was shown.

The movie was written and directed by Frank Pestarino, Jimmy’s father.  He has no previous credits according to IMDB, so this appears to be his first feature film and his inexperience really is evident throughout the picture.  “Bones” focuses on a young teenager named Bones (Bennett).  Bones is being picked on by a group of older Italian guys, but is helped by Samantha Reeves (Melissa Ordway) and her boyfriend Derrick (Jesse James).  Samantha thinks Bones may be a good match for her sister, Kelly (Jonna Walsh).  Unfortunately, the trouble with Italians escalates to the point where Bones and Derrick are beaten by two of the guys, and Samantha is raped.  During the incident Bones gets hold of a gun and kills two of the attackers.  The rest decide to cover up the killings and how that decision affects their lives.

The flaws in this film start with the screenplay.  If you start with a weak screenplay you will likely end up with a weak product, unless you have a highly skilled director at the helm.  The story itself is not that strong or believable.  The surviving Italian was the rapist in the attack and his reason as to why they should cover up the murders is really farfetched.  A major problem since the whole plot hinges on this idea.

One huge no-no in a screenplay is to repeat information the audience already knows.  In other words if the audience has already seen something on screen, you do not want to have one character to tell about it to another since it has already been explained to us.  Even Kermit the Frog known this as he told Fozzie Bear in “The Muppet Movie” when Fozzie tried to tell Dr. Teeth and his band everything that happened in the movie up until that point, “Fozzie, you can’t retell the whole story up to now, you’ll bore the audience.” 

Another problem is that while Ordway and Walsh may look like teenaged girls they are actually in their mid-20s.  If you want to witness a real awkward looking kiss, see what happens when Walsh has to kiss Jimmy who is a decade younger than she.  That can’t be held too much against the actors.  The kiss between Brad Pitt and Kristen Dunst when she was a preteen in “Interview with the Vampire” was just as bad if not worse.  The solution would have been to cast someone closer to Jimmy’s age.  The age actual age gap made it so there was no chemistry between the two.  Pestarino revealed that some of the scenes between the two sisters were all improvised, and those scenes did not work out too well either which can be partially blamed on the director for not knowing what he really wanted and unable to communicate that to his cast.

When the movie ended the FLIFF crowd gave the cast and director a nice round of applause and many went on to say nice things to them during the Q&A that followed.  Afterwards, many were in agreement that “Bones” was one of the poorer films of the opening weekend which goes to show that not every independent film can be a gem.