Despite some honest and poignant emotions and a compelling lead turn by Cybill Shepherd, “Being Rose” unfolds in an awkwardly constructed, herky-jerky manner that shortchanges its many characters and themes. Let’s just say the spirit is willing but the filmmaking is weak.
Writer-director Rod McCall’s New Mexico-set drama finds aging widow Rose Jones (Shepherd), an ex-cop with 33 years on the force, facing a grave, underexplained illness. With the clock ticking, Rose decides to take a solo road trip, often using her motorized wheelchair to travel the highway (which is frankly just silly.)
En route, Rose meets an old divorced cowboy, Max (a solid James Brolin), and they quite speedily — and not all that plausibly — fall in love. Max’s teenage daughter (Aimee Williams) doesn’t approve, but there’s little fallout.
Unfortunately, the romance zigzags in and out too much to effectively drive the narrative and inform the dying Rose’s emotional arc in the way, by all rights, it should have.
Instead, focus is diverted by Rose’s fraught reunion with her angry, estranged son, Will (Erik Fellows), an architect and drug addict. Like much else here, we must take Will’s issues at face value: McCall too often “tells” instead of “shows.”
Meantime, Will’s lovely new wife, Ashley (Amy Davidson), runs interference between Rose and Will, who’s haunted by an event connected to his father’s death that could have also been better clarified.
Then there’s the brash Lily (Pam Grier, overdoing it), a free spirit who meets Rose at a wellness spa and, in what seems like record time (the whole movie feels too tightly edited), becomes her hyper-devoted friend. Meantime, Rose’s real BFFs, a trio of scantily sketched women (Cindy Pickett, Delana Michaels, Mary Maxson), support her on the home front.
Rounding out the strangers who show movie-style kindness to Rose is Ernesto (Julio Cesar Cedillo), a cop who comes to her aid a few too many times.
A deglammed Shepherd, an unlikely yet inspired casting choice, strikes a credible balance between tough and tender as she valiantly holds together this rocky if well-intentioned enterprise.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Available on VOD, Jan. 4