Beautiful Ohio Chad Lowe

Set in the early '70s, when previously static definitions of manhood and coming-of-age proved less tangible and definitive, this idiosyncratic academic family drama tackles internal identity in relation to external influences and expectations under the umbrella of fraternal relations. It's perhaps more interesting and respectable than it is successful and enjoyable but marks a promising future for Hilary Swank's ex-hubbie, Chad Lowe. Rather than simply positioning siblings as explicitly different, Beautiful Ohio provides a roundabout analysis of esoteric genius Clive (David Call) and his less secure and more socially grounded younger brother William (Brett Davern). Mom (Rita Wilson) claims to understand their personal trajectories, advising William that he need not feel like "less" in the shadow of genius, as his brother will always need his support and reason, while dad (William Hurt) vacillates between the old school ideals at his core and the changing times and bohemian lifestyle of a nascent generation. Starting out with a round table of erudite folks quoting Oscar Wilde and discussing the nature of genius while casting scornful glances at Clive's less refined girlfriend (Michelle Trachtenberg), the film manages to examine pretentious people without being pretentious. Instead, it seems concerned with external gratification and adherence to the status quo, as opposed to the nature of genius and its tendency to manifest an almost deliberate difference, without necessarily judging either path. What's interesting is the decision to take this hypothetical notion and inject something strangely literal and humanizing into the final act, throwing in the rarely understood concept of homosexuality, in addition to deepening characters in an indirect manner. There is a lot to think about after all is said and done but not much to feel, which is largely due to the somewhat piecemeal approach of the film, given its effort to avoid opinion and condescending explanation by coolly jumping from one scene to the next. No supplements are included with the DVD. (E1)