The Good Life

Director: Steve Berra
Screenwriters: Steve Berra

Institute History

  • 2007 Sundance Film Festival


In the cold, small-town heartland that has always been the defining state of mind for America, there are two worlds. There is a community whose focal point is the football team, and there is the alienated existence of the kid who doesn't fit in. In The Good Life, a debut feature that is remarkable for its maturity and sophistication, filmmaker Steve Berra unerringly sketches a portrait of life in these environs that is at once full of torment and hope.

Jason Prayer (Mark Webber) works two jobs, struggles with his uncaring family, is tortured by a bully, and in general is quietly suffocating in the provincial insularity of his town. Other than that, the local cinema, which is literally on its last legs—as is its aging operator, Gus (Harry Dean Stanton)—is Jason's one escape and window to the outside world. But when he is courted by a mysterious stranger (Zooey Deschanel), his desperate life takes a turn. As a response to the lessons of Capra-corn in It's a Wonderful Life, and with a nod to The Last Picture Show, Berra offers a ray of light in these dark times—a modern vision about the contradictions of small-town life.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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