Movie News & Reviews

'Lebanon, Pa.': City-vs.-small town tension offers a backdrop for life lessons

Lexington's Josh Hopkins has received strong reviews in the lead role.
Lexington's Josh Hopkins has received strong reviews in the lead role.

Will (Lexington native Josh Hopkins) is 35, a boyish man with a high-powered ad job and a good Philadelphia address who comes to Lebanon, Pa., for his father's funeral.

CJ (Rachel Kitson) is 18, a womanly girl impatient to shake off the dust of Lebanon and move to Philadelphia for college.

Their paths cross in Ben Hickernell's sophomore feature, Lebanon, Pa., a poignant portrait of an unlikely friendship and a pungent contrast of urban clamor and small-town murmur. Will has lost his estranged dad, whereas CJ can't get any distance from hers.

For Will, rural-ish Lebanon is a quiet retreat where he can find his bearings and enjoy the blessings of community. For CJ, it is a goldfish bowl where everyone is in her business. Both Will and CJ face Major Life Decisions, and it's easier to make them when they are outside their usual context.

Without taking sides in the city-versus-country debate, Hickernell elicits sympathetic performances from both of his leads, particularly newcomer Kitson, who is a performer of subtlety and intelligence.

In smaller roles, Mary Beth Hurt is excellent as Will's mother and Samantha Mathis is quite engaging as the teacher who understands the physics of playing darts.

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