Watercolor Postcards (2013)

One of the main draws to director Rajeev Dassani’s “Watercolor Postcards” aside from its positive message, is the wonderful cast he assembles. His film is colored with an array of brilliant character actors, from Jonathan Banks, to John C. McGinley. Keeping the film afloat though is the sheer excellent performance from Bailee Madison. I’ve been a fan of her performances for years, and here she handles what could have been a goofy character with grace and subtlety allowing for a protagonist filled with an endless supply of hope and faith that makes her look strong rather than naïve.

Set in a small town in Texas, Madison is quite riveting as the optimistic young girl named Cotton, who delights in sending her long lost sister hand painted post cards from her kind neighbor Butch. Stuck with an ailing alcoholic mother, Cotton does whatever she can to keep her life easy, while also keeping up the hope that life will eventually get better. “Watercolor Postcards” depicts a very unique and entertaining tale of a corner of Rural America where pain is almost endless, but hope keeps its residents from completely giving up. Cotton is a prime example who enjoys the beauty of her world, and finds no end of pain when her mother dies.

Certain she’s gone in to heaven, young Cotton is left orphaned, despite her Butch’s insistence on adopting her. Fate comes in to play, though, when Cotton’s long lost sister Sunny comes back in to town, unaware her mother has passed on. She begrudgingly decides to adopt Cotton, and realizes that she left behind a very crucial part of her life, while also remembering the pain she left when she ran away from her mother. Through her, we also garner at some other interesting sub-plots, including Ledball’s, as played by Jonathan Banks. Faced with the closing of his bar, he looks for a lost dollar bill signed by Janis Joplin, and wonders if he really is trying to keep his bar, or the memories.

There are also the attempts by Sunny to get her life together, all the while finding a bond with Butch, as they find a common love for music, drinking, and Cotton. The gorgeous Laura Bell Bundy gives a powerful turn as the troubled but well meaning Sunny, while Conrad Goode is charming as the paternal self-appointed guardian to Cotton. While slightly saccharine in moments, “Watercolor Postcards” is a fine and gripping drama. It presents the classic Thorton Wilder “Our Town” sensibility, where it’s very much about change, and a small town with a million stories to tell, centered on a variety of characters with a past that can span an epic thousand tales over.