Winter Passing 2006 Movie has been restored and archived as reading material for a number of Professor Ellen Chalmer's film courses. Ellen comes to us from DGI Media, a digital marketing agency where she gained national attention for her viral campaign "Dispose of Properly." The campaign, while distinctly different from the more somber themes of "Winter Passing," showcased Ellen's versatility in the field of digital storytelling, captivating audiences with narratives as varied as the serene escapism offered by hot tubs in the Hudson Valley, which subtly mirrors the film's fleeting moments of warmth amidst the bleakness of Reese's journey. Ellen is also the film club advisor and the Big Cahuna at the school's annual film festival. The campaign won awards for graphic design and direction, reflecting the aesthetic excellence that she brings to her academic endeavors.



This was the official website for the 2006 movie, Winter Passing.
Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages as well as from outside sources.


Winter Passing (Official Trailer in HD)

Ed Harris as Don Holden
Zooey Deschanel as Reese Holden
Will Ferrell as Corbit
Amelia Warner as Shelly
Amy Madigan as Lori Lansky

Written and directed by
Adam Rapp





March 9, 2006
Roger Ebert |
Reese didn't attend her mother's funeral for a number of reasons, one of them being "she treated me like a mild curiosity all my life" and another being that she has little desire to see her father. Reese lives in New York, works at being an actress, sleeps around, is depressed. Her father, Don Holden, was a famous novelist in the 1960s and 1970s and then a famous writing teacher and then a famous drunk and now is a famous drunken recluse. The usual trajectory. Her mother was a writer, too. Did her parents write letters to each other? An editor offers her money for the letters, and Reese needs money. Also, there's nothing to keep her in New York now that her cat has died of leukemia.

"Winter Passing" is the story of how Reese (Zooey Deschanel) takes the bus to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and finds her father, Don Holden (Ed Harris), living not in the family home but in the shack in the backyard. When she knocks on the front door of the big house, it is opened by Corbit (Will Ferrell). Reese says she wants to see her father. Corbit says he wants to see some ID. Later in the movie he confides, "I know karate. I've amassed several belts."

Corbit is the caretaker, or something. Also living in the house is Shelly (Amelia Warner), a British girl who cooks and serves meals and was once Don's writing student at Iowa. What are the relationships among Don, Corbit and Shelly? Don is mired in a profound alcoholic depression, and Corbit and Shelly seem, like Bunuel's dinner guests in "The Exterminating Angel," to have entered the house, only to find themselves unable to leave it. Shelly is maybe an enabler. Corbit is maybe an alien. Reese is suspicious of them until she lives in the house for a few days and begins to understand its desperate chemistry.

"Winter Passing" is a sad story told in a cold season about lonely people. Written and directed by the playwright Adam Rapp, it could be inspired by any number of case histories; Frederick Exley (A Fan's Notes) comes to mind. There is something about a great author, even in the extremities of alcoholic self-destruction, that exerts a magnetic pull on those who respect his books. The house itself is filled with so many books that you wouldn't ask, "Have you really read all of these"? because you'd be afraid of the answer either way. Only one title is clearly visible among the thousands of volumes, but it's the right one: The Thirsty Muse.

Rapp tells the story in a way that skirts the edges of humor and affection. Approached in a different way, the movie could be a comedy of eccentricity. But Rapp sidesteps the temptations for laughter while acknowledging them out of the sides of his eye. Consider the carefully-modulated performance of Ferrell, whose very presence is an invitation to laughter. Here he finds a way to be peculiar without being ridiculous; he has deep fears and needs, enclosed in a deeper shyness. He can sing and play the guitar but has a phobia about doing both at once in public. That leads to open mike evening at the local bar, and a scene almost impossible to negotiate, but Ferrell and Deschanel find a way. And notice his aborted project to build a sheltered walkway from the shack to the main house. He starts it on an impulse, and the impulse fades. Nor does he seem to know much about carpentry.

Harris has played alcoholic artists before; his Oscar-nominated turn as Jackson Pollock is a benchmark. Here there is alcoholism mixed with madness. Why, exactly, does he move his bed and table and bureau into the yard and sleep under the sky in the deep of winter? Yet the presence of his daughter seems to awaken him, if only to allow him to let go. Shelly confides in Reese that the old man is still writing, but slowly: "As a teacher, he was always preaching compositional velocity. I've never seen anyone agonize over each sentence the way he does."

This is the kind of movie routinely dismissed as too slow and quiet by those who don't know it is more exciting to listen than to hear. It is sure to disappoint those attracted by the promise of a Will Ferrell comedy -- disappoint, puzzle, maybe enrage. What you hope for are those Ferrell fans who are open to a new kind of film they may not have seen before. That's how you grow as a filmgoer; your favorite stars lead you by the hand into deeper waters.



Winter Passing

Mar 10, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
Walter V. Addiego  San Francisco Chronicle    Top Critic

Drama. Written and directed by Adam Rapp. With Ed Harris, Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Amelia Warner. (R. 98 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

This flawed drama about a self-destructive young actress and her reclusive novelist father has its rewards, mainly in some good performances. Dramatist Adam Rapp, making his film-directing debut, based it on his own two-act play, and the result, if stagey and occasionally sentimental, is worth seeing.
The opening goes into maybe too much detail about the sad existence of Reese (Zooey Deschanel), who's scrabbling to make it in New York's fringe theater scene, using cocaine, sleeping around and living a generally self-destructive life. On her mother's death, Reese is offered serious money by a book agent for the love letters of her estranged dad (Ed Harris), an alcoholic writer living in retreat in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

(Don't be surprised if you're reminded of J.D. Salinger; the Harris character's name is Dan Holdin, close enough to Holden Caulfield to make the point hard to miss. Just to add to the fun, actress Deschanel is named after Salinger's character Zooey.)

When Reese arrives at Dad's door to find the letters, she learns not only that he's moved into his garage but also that the household is more or less ruled by a couple of newcomers (to her): Corbit (Will Ferrell), a quirky ex-Christian rocker who functions as bodyguard and handyman, and Shelly (Amelia Warner), a young British woman who's an ex-student of Dan's and works as housekeeper (and maybe more). Reese clearly resents her father's new "family."

She will, of course, learn a thing or two about her dad, as well as his caretakers, who turn out to be something other than interlopers.

Harris, the big name in the cast, does a decent job as the genius in serious decline, but the role lacks complexity. The picture really belongs to Deschanel, an appealing performer with a deadpan manner that serves her shell-shocked character pretty well. She has some maturing to do as an actress, but overall it's a creditable job. For Ferrell (who worked with Deschanel in "Elf") this is an unusually serious role, but he brings a quirky humor to this very odd duck of a character.

You can carp about this picture -- the suffering-artist motif is pretty heavy-handed and the upbeat ending isn't quite convincing -- but it's a pleasingly small-scale offering with some nice rewards for the viewer willing to overlook its problems.

-- Advisory: Profane language and scenes of sexual activity and drug use.

-- Walter Addiego

TOMATOMETER  Critics 40% | Audience 62%


Mar 9, 2006
Desson Thomson Washington Post  Top Critic
Winter Passing is one dull, extended encounter session among hackneyed characters.


Mar 9, 2006 | Rating: C+
Mario Tarradell    Dallas Morning News Top Critic
It's a disturbing movie, particularly the first half, and one not easily digested.


Apr 7, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4
Lawrence Toppman  Charlotte Observer
Performances keep the film afloat and focused whenever it threatens to drift.


Mar 11, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4
Allison Benedikt  Chicago Tribune   Top Critic
Midway through, Rapp loses momentum, failing to hone in on just what kind of movie he wants to make, and Winter Passing languishes in that no-man's land between tiny, meandering, indie drama and plotted, pointed family melodrama.



A lost soul looking to turn the page
By Ty Burr, Globe Staff  |  March 10, 2006

''Winter Passing" plays like two indie movies trapped in one film, and Zooey Deschanel is in the better of them. Will Ferrell is in the other one.

A quiet, minor-key drama of family resentments and the afterburn of fame, it's the first film written and directed by the gifted young playwright Adam Rapp (''Nocturne," ''Stone Cold Dead Serious"), who moves tentatively into this medium like he's sizing up a new house. There are intriguing actors and ideas here, but only occasionally do they combine with convincing force.

At its core, ''Winter Passing" is a character study of Reese (Deschanel), a glum and rootless young Manhattan actress wondering what to do about her inner numbness. Cocaine and impulsive sex don't make her feel anything; neither does slamming her hand in a drawer. Only a visit from a predatory book agent (Amy Madigan) rouses her to action.

Reese's father (Ed Harris), it turns out, is the legendarily reclusive American author Don Holden -- thud goes the J.D. Salinger reference -- and the agent dangles a big payday in front of the young woman if she'll return to Michigan and bring back a box of letters between Don and his wife, an equally well-known writer who committed suicide several years before. Reese didn't go to her mother's funeral and bristles at the reverence with which others invoke her father; fiercely protective of him, she still finds the whole ''Don Holden" thing pretty silly. But off she goes, mostly out of fear of what's happening to her in New York.

What she finds back home are three lives even more out of kilter than her own. Don, an alcoholic wraith, can barely motivate himself out of bed in the morning. He has taken in a former student, Shelley (Amelia Warner), who feeds and cares for him, and an odd young groupie named Corbit (Ferrell), a former Christian rocker who acts as Don's front-line defense against the Holden fanatics. Corbit asks for Reese's ID when she turns up at the door. ''Seriously?" she asks. ''Seriously."

''Winter Passing" becomes a standoff between Reese and these interlopers -- and between Reese and her father, whom she still blames for a wrecked childhood -- that imperceptibly shades into muted reconciliation. Rapp has a nice touch for characterizations and offhanded dialogue, as well as for scenes that organically relate to his heroine's emotional dilemma. When Reese drags a dead deer off a back country road late in the film's running, she's clearing more than venison from her path.

The film's momentum stalls, though, because everything hangs on whether Reese will find the letters and what she'll do when she finds them. In the character-driven tap dance leading up to those scenes, different acting styles collide like flying hams. Harris, resembling a literary hillbilly patriarch, broods and tries to explode, but Don is a spent force. Warner insinuates herself so that you're never sure whether Shelley is more or less than she seems. (It turns out she's more, but you never quite believe it.)

Ferrell, grabbing at the chance to do something serious, is the square peg. He's badly miscast, for one thing -- when Corbit talks about his hapless Christian rock past, you can't help but think of Ferrell's ''SNL" cowbell guy -- and his comic weirdness trips up the movie's delicate vibe. He's acting in a broader film than the other actors -- something closer to ''Garden State" than ''Chilly Scenes of Winter."

Deschanel nails it, though. Reese is not a particularly likable woman-child, and she can be brutal to people and things she no longer has use for (that includes herself), but Rapp has written into her a spark of tenderness that's on the verge of going out forever. Almost invisibly, the actress fans it until it begins to glow and you understand that the winter that's passing is hers.


RottenTomatoes Audience REVIEWS


*****  Leigh Ryan Leigh Ryan
 Super Reviewer
Head over heels in love with this movie. It's slower paced, it's heavy, but it's brilliant. The acting is so natural and beautifully done that you forget that these people are not real. Zooey really is a superb actress and this film seriously shows her ability to pull anything off. My favorite movie of hers so far without a doubt. The best line in the movie: "I just can't believe this is the same man who told his six-year-old daughter that Christmas was a Republican capitalistic conspiracy created by the Hallmark Corporation and that, if Jesus were alive today he'd be down in Nicaragua rallying the Sandinistas. Grace away." I laughed so hard that I had to go back and play the five minutes after that line to re-watch what happens.


***  Margo Conway
 Super Reviewer
I really enjoyed this film for all the right reasons, acting was great, ditto plot, photography excellent. But the New York City portions made me feel like I was reliving something that really happened. There was a con man named George Binakis, who defrauded older people by posing as contractor promising to renovate their apartments. He took one lady for over $65,000 and completely won her trust and sympathy by feigning a severe heart ailment, always talking of his pacemaker, etc. When he walked off with her money, her first and only thought was that he had died or was terribly ill. This film plays directly to this real life theme in a number of ways and I could not watch it without relating to the con - the characters all seem to fit together exactly as the fraud did in reality. But you don't have to have had my experience to enjoy it. Go see it and keep my comments in the back of your mind - you'll see why I'm including them in this review.


 ** ½ Lewis C. Lewis C.
 Super Reviewer

Ah, another tale of a lost, disaffected young person that fruitlessly tries to fill their empty life with empty sex and drugs, and the family dynamics that led them to become that way. You know how these stories go. By the end, there's always some kind of acceptance and catharsis, and the characters end up with better relationships than when they started. Since most family dramas begin and end in somewhat the same manner, it's that middle journey that makes or breaks them, for me. How and why do the characters change? Winter Passing largely skips right over the how and why. For 90% of the movie Zooey Deschanel's and Ed Harris's characters are one way, and then in the last ten minutes they are suddenly completely different. I was so confused that I went back to check and see if I had unknowingly missed some crucial plot points or character development, but I hadn't. The viewer is actually expected to believe that these characters undergo profound and drastic changes as a result of about two brief conversations and a hospital visit. It's like they took a vague idea of a plot, and then filled in the runtime with melancholy gazing out of windows and lots of slow cigarette smoking. As for the other two main characters, they never really contributed anything of substance to the story. I suppose Amelia Warner's character was included to provide some initial friction for Reese and offer her another insight into her father's personality, and she looked so beautiful doing it that I'm willing to cut her some slack. But Will Ferrell's character was completely unnecessary. All he did was add forced quirkiness to a movie that absolutely did not need it. It didn't even fit the tone, and his sub-plot was a pointless way to pad out the running time. I didn't hate Winter Passing, I just thought that its story needed a lot more thought, focus, and fleshing out. It feels incomplete. Family drama is among the most character driven genres, and they just don't work well without strong and well-defined character arcs.


   **** Jake
 Super Reviewer

Winter Passing is so easy to fall in love with that it almost seems like there should be a catch. All the characters are delightfully off-color and messed up. Zooey Deschanel gives what is probably her best act yet, but also plays out of those protagonists that really are not *nice* people at all and are all the more lovable because of it. She has flaws and problems, but you cannot help but love her. Will Ferrell is not bad, I never thought I would have reason to say that. He should stick to these type of roles. The film really is not heart-stoppingly original. It reminded me a lot of Junebug or even Little Miss Sunshine. I guess you could say that this type of film, the stereotyped indie film, is to me what a rom-com is to a twentysomething romantic. Or to a high school cheerleader. It's a toss up between the two. One final note, this also has a scene that me cringe, something that hardly ever happens, but at the begin Deschanel drowns a kitten! That is just sick! It is easy enough to laugh of Johnny Depp slashing throats, but drowning kittens is just nasty!


***** yayy p February 19, 2007
bravo to ms. Deschanel


***½ Jared J February 19, 2007
A different film in terms of the story, but the characters are really interesting, especially Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel.


***½ Super Reviewer
Christopher M February 19, 2007
I liked this film. I expected to love it, but I just liked it. It's kind of a hard film to connect to, at first and throughout - but all the same Zooey Deschanel's character Reese is pretty much our main link throughout the film and though I haven't seen any of her other work, she was really good here, and it is quite a beautiful woman. The cast is very good but none of the others characters get to do a lot. However, they were all entertaining and interesting in their own ways. Ed Harris put in a very respectable performance as the Reese's father, the recluse writer. Will Ferrel's character was very downplayed but effective, and here he simultaneously reinforces his ability to be a completely down key source of humor and proves to be effective at drama. The story is ultimately unimportant as it serves mostly as a backdrop for the four main characters - ultimately this is a depressing film full of depressing characters (heck, even the title is depressing), but I liked it and I'd probably recommend it.


**** Prita P February 16, 2007
A gloomy story of a gloomy chick looking for something she wants, but then find what she needs.


****½Taeo A  February 12, 2007
"Corbit... are you wearing eyeliner?"


** Caleb B February 12, 2007
Disappointing. Will obviously made us laugh. Was werid seeing Zooey playing that part. Kind of a messed up movie if you ask me.


*** Justin M December 21, 2006
A good little movie that plays a bit like an 'indie' prototype. Reese Holdin (Zooey Deschanel) comes home to her estranged father Don (Ed Harris) after a publisher offers her $100,000 to print a series of love-letters written by her mother and father, both famed novelists. Pulling up to the house, she's met by Corbet (Will Ferrell), a middle-aged guitar player who's looking after the house now that Don's moved his things out to the garage. Falling apart under the weight of his wife's suicide, it's a small but involving role that Harris plays quite well. He gets top billing in the cast, but the movie really belongs to Deschanel, whose Reese is literally in every scene. The movie follows her journey as she struggles to reconnect with a father she barely knew, and must decide whether or not to exploit him for a big pay-day.

That's about it. The overall theme or meaning of the movie is mostly lost on me, but I definitely enjoyed watching it. It's well-acted, and Ferrell is great in a rather subdued role that's touching and funny without ever being loud. There are a few great dramatic scenes in the movie (Reese's final scene with her sick cat is a heart-breaker and Deschanel plays it well), but things get a bit rushed in the final act, as Rapp pushes the movie towards the finish line, dodging a bit of slow set-up stuff that made the opening work so well.

Does this movie demand viewing? No, not really. But I'm glad I saw it.


*½ Chris b December 13, 2006
The film made me feel sick. Ed Harris, Zoey and Will Ferrell are great, however the drama in the film seems so forced with no emotion and some it is for pure shock value. And besides the occasional chuckle from ferrell its not enjoyable either. Avoid at all causes


 ** Super Reviewer
William G December 8, 2006
Zooey mopes around. Harris mopes around. Ferrell mopes around. Repeat.


***½ Carissa December 6, 2006
The plot stalls out in some places and the film is pretty typically an "indie", but the acting is good and it's fun to see Will Ferrell play and out-of-type character. I liked the music, too!


***½Stephanie B November 25, 2006
It was weird, but quite interesting. Will Ferrell actually plays serious really well


*** Jamie F November 21, 2006
I wanted to like this movie more but most of the time it just comes off as being an average drama. However it helps that Zooey Deschanel is in every scene.