A pleasant ride on a familiar road

Special to The Times

Although “Bonneville” is not as sturdy a vehicle for its stars -- Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen -- as the 1966 red convertible that gives this gentle but slight film its title, it is nevertheless strong enough to allow these splendid actresses to provide a pleasant ride for viewers, mature audiences especially.

Directed by Christopher N. Rowley, who co-wrote with Daniel D. Davis, there is a spacious quality to “Bonneville,” a road movie that takes three friends on a journey from Pocatello, Idaho, to Santa Barbara.

Lange, ever the mistress of the radiant secret smile, has just been widowed by her adored, adventurous, much older husband, who never got around to including Lange’s Arvilla, his second wife of 20 years, in his will. His daughter (Christine Baranski) by his late first wife has always been jealous of Arvilla and declares that the price of her being able to stay on in the family home will be to turn over her father’s ashes for burial in Santa Barbara. But Arvilla knows that her husband would have wanted his ashes scattered at sites that had special meaning for him.

Her two best friends, the earthy, hearty Margene (Bates), a widowed former schoolteacher, and the sweetly proper Carol (Allen), heretofore inseparable from her husband (Tom Wopat), agree to accompany Arvilla and her pot full of ashes to the funeral, but Arvilla can’t resist turning the journey into an adventure during which she will surely be tempted to deposit at least a portion of her husband’s ashes here and there along the way. In any event, it will be a journey of self-discovery for the vivacious yet reflective Arvilla -- and a liberating experience for her friends.


“Bonneville” is scarcely original and in no way earthshaking, but its notable cast is a pleasure to behold.


“Bonneville.” Rated PG for some mild language, innuendo. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. In limited release.