The operative words are "Be Kind."
Oh boy, a movie about a 1966 Bonneville convertible! That's the car my sisters and I learned to drive on. Ours was silver with a black interior, purchased brand-new off the showroom floor with every possible extra. We called it the Batmobile. It's in retirement at Louisa's place now, but I like to think of it as resting up.
I went to see the cinematic Bonneville filled with hopeful nostalgia, but, I regret to say, it's a really crummy movie. Though the car appears in the film, it's mere eye candy for a story about three middle-aged women ("middle," that is, if you know lots of 120-year-olds). They—Arvilla (Jessica Lange), Margene (Kathy Bates), and Carol (Joan Allen)—are using the spiffy vehicle to make a road trip from Pocatello, Idaho to Santa Barbara, California. Though road-trip movies have been overdone, it could still have been enjoyable, especially as a comedy retaining down-to-earth, wisecracking Bates. But Bonneville is also burdened with a serious plot element, one that feels contrived and manipulative.
It's that Arvilla has just lost her husband, Joe. After his retirement, Joe became an adventurous traveler, and began taking Arvilla around the world. Death came while they were on a trip to Borneo. As the story opens we see Arvilla coming home in a taxi, clutching a container of Joe's ashes. She had made him a promise to scatter them, the where and how left unspecified.
But Joe has a daughter from his first marriage, Francine, who feels strongly that he should be buried next to her mother, in the family plot in California. She offers Arvilla a deal: turn over the ashes by the time of the memorial service next week, and I won't sell this house. (The house was left to Francine in a pre-Arvilla will, and in a theoretical later amendment that can't be found.)
Since the unseen Joe looms large throughout the film, what kind of guy was he? Francine tells Arvilla that perhaps Joe never made a new will, since there were many things he said he'd do but never got around to, like moving to where he could be part of his grandchildren's lives. Later we learn that Joe had programmed Arvilla's phone so that a call from Francine would trigger the sound of a screaming raptor. Pretty hostile behavior, and there's no obvious reason why Francine deserves it. Apparently she is Joe's only child.
There's also something creepy in the fact that Arvilla has placed his ashes in a pottery jar Joe purchased on one of his travels, one that had originally held the hearts of human sacrifices. Later, Margene recalls the time Joe gave her a gift of a shrunken head. My guess is that a shrunken head makes a hilarious gift only if it's not Caucasian. If it were, it would be too obvious that you are holding the decapitated head of a young woman, say, or a child, or even an old man like Joe.
The film gives away this alternate view completely against its will. We are herded toward thinking that Francine must be in the wrong, because she's uptight and wealthy. (How wealthy? One day we see her and her husband playing tennis next to the porch of their home; the next day, the view from the porch shows a swimming pool. Wow.) Her father is presented as her opposite, an adventurous free spirit who won't be chained to the expectations of narrow, proper people.