With it's obvious attempts at cuteness, Barefoot is all wishful thinking and no wish fulfillment.
Andrew Fleming’s Barefoot falls short of being both an intriguing and emotionally moving film. Coming from a director credited for cult classics such as The Craft and Dick, I had a level of expectation for this film, which by the end of the 90 minutes was not met. Barefoot left much to be desired. While it has some of the essential ingredients to be a perfect indie rom-com; a spoonful of Evan Rachel Wood‘s kewpie, doe-eyed, Daisy, and a dose of ne’er-do-well bad boy with striking good looks, Jay, played by Scott Speedman, the film lacks the spark necessary to really label it a success. The pair is brought together through a seemingly subtle twist of fate; Jay owes some very “bad” people a lot of money and needs to charm his father (Treat Williams) into giving him the necessary funds to repay the debt. What better opportunity to ask for the loan then his brother’s upcoming wedding in New Orleans.
In order to do so he needs to convince his father that he has cleaned up his act and is ready to settle down. How do you convince your parents that you’re ready to settle down? With a serious girlfriend, of course. Unable to find a suitable stand-in girlfriend from among his stripper acquaintances, Jay finally settles on heading to the wedding on his own, until one evening when he rescues Daisy at the mental institution where he works as a janitor. Daisy is beautiful and upon seeing her, Jay feels that she would be the perfect candidate for his plan . There is a catch, Daisy is a patient at the mental institution. Once Daisy follows him and sneaks out of the hospital, Jay has no choice but to take her under his wing as they embark on a roller coaster of an adventure across the country.
Throughout the course of their journey together, Daisy reveals that she is not like most girls, having been raised by an overprotective mother who kept her sheltered from the outside world for much of her life; she has grown up lacking the social skills and worldliness necessary to get by in society. I am a fan of Wood’s previous work, think Thirteen, Across the Universe and even recent indie rom-com A Case of You alongside Justin Long. However, Wood portrays Daisy’s childlike nature with such overemphasis that it is difficult to believe the naiveté in her actions as she experiences many firsts–her first time flying on a plane; her first time drinking champagne; her first time on a roller coaster. Her behavior comes across as trite, and insincere. Speedman has an easier time portraying Jay, though only because there really is not much to his character. Displays of cliché bad boy behavior are present–a one night stand, gambling issues, visits to the strip club and of course the presence of the gangsters to whom he owes the debt, as mentioned in the outset. The various cliches of the film are so blatant throughout that their obvious emotional responses seem almost dictated. But they result in only general detachment.
The characters and the storyline are underdeveloped which result in the lack of any emotional connection to either of the protagonists, or even an understanding of their connection. As much as the director is telling me to root for them to be together, and as much as I would like to believe that Daisy is just the change Jay needs to turn his aimless life around, it’s all just wishful thinking.