The Magic of Belle Isle, a Rob Reiner film, starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen, may be the best movie you have never seen. It is currently available on pay-per-view. Because there is virtually no word of mouth, you may overlook this gem. Do not!
Nothing explodes. No one is nude. There is a dog – that doesn’t do tricks. There are kids – whiny teen, innocent 6 year old, precocious 9 year old. The story flows as slow as molasses in July. And you wouldn’t want it to move any faster. Lingering on wicker chairs, sipping iced tea, on a deep, shaded porch – that takes time.
The Magic of Belle Isle a is treatise and lament on imagination. The ethereal arguments are made real. We come to understand the why, what and how.
Belle Isle is not a Western
Virginia Madsen plays a mother to whom you can relate, as she interacts with divorce, children and a cantankerous neighbour. She plays a Louis L’Amour western heroine, strong and smart enough to walk by her man’s side, not two feet back. Morgan Freeman plays the Western Hero, a retired author of Western’s featuring a character named Jubal McClaws. [One of Louis L'Amour's fictional Western Heroes was named Jubal Sackett.]
The film unfolds in cottage country, in houses that have been in the same family for three generations. They are fading Victorian Ladies, needing a fresh coat of paint and rewiring. The rooms are large, the porches larger. Locking the front door is unthinkable.
The horse our hero rides is a motorized wheelchair, his trusty companion. The trading post is the convenience store in a village that closes down the day after Labour Day. Every Western stereotype is turned on its head and reinvented, eradicating the cliche, illuminating the genre.
Watch The Magic of Belle Isle. You will thank me.