Let’s have another SS, “Super Script,” award for American actor, film producer, and screenwriter DJ Perry! Best Years Gone is one of the best of many great productions from Collective Development Inc. The film is a captivating true-to-life Michigan story.
As a native Michigander hay, the cinematography could have been shot out my front window, and the soundtrack could have been recorded in my backyard. This is pure Michigan! I can tell the season by listening to the birds on the soundtrack.
Best Years Gone brings you, the viewer, into the struggles of a dysfunctional family on shaky ground falling apart. The only support holding them up is the two A’s, Adolescence and Alcoholism. No one wants to get a participation award for living with an alcoholic. Good luck.
Harold Gil Gilles, our hero, is very acutely played by DJ Perry; I had met such a person many times before I met Gil on the screen. Mr. Gilles has the effect of newly fallen snow suddenly covered with black ash from a trash fire. Everyone around him is drawn into the heat of his moment, and he has many. But out from the ashes of bad judgment, the blue Gil arises to his call to duty to defend his family no matter who’s they may be.
You painfully watch as Gil Gilles, who knows “You can’t get drunk on light beer,” tries to take care of Syliva (Erika Hoveland) “The love of his life.” All while holding a drink and defending his wisdom to all that will listen to his shouting. Gill puts his Big Foot in his mouth with all the class of a fart in a sleeping bag. This guy is no good, and he will prove it to you. But he is the best hero for this story.
Director, Co-Producer, Shane Hagedorn puts you in the front seat of a head-on crash between too much fun and the insanity behavior of alcoholism. He takes you inside the mind of this former racecar driver who has all the aspirations to race again. You hear the personal thoughts of Gil, narrated by DJ Perry, as he tries to figure out, “How did this all happen?” Shane plays Gil’s cousin, drinking buddy, and fighting partner, Ike Gilles. Together, they will clear the bar.
Gil Gilles does have a personal relationship with God that he calls upon when circumstances force it necessary, but he bearly escapes. On the screen, Gil Gilles looks like he has been “Rode hard and put away wet.” He is the in-your-face character that you will love to hate. You will get a Hood Sliding High of a contact buzz as you get close to DJ Perry’s characterization of Gil Gilles.
While trying to take care of Siliva, who Gil says has “A few dents, minor scratches, runs well,” he is in constant self-inflicted battles with her twin daughters, Julie and Peggy, played by Tessa and Zoie Dye. The insane behavior of alcoholism and the pressures brought upon the family is sadly portrayed by the twins, who are very protective of their mother. Gil may be their mother’s friend but not a friend to the demon spawn twins. Gil is like a coiled snake when he has to deal with these two girls. It always strikes out but never hits anything.
We learn thru these clashes that young people today grow up faster than their elders did. And a problem drinker can stop drinking only when they have hit bottom and want to live again.
Bad things can become good when they are brought out into the light of truth. And Gil Gilles has a way of telling the truth that drives the twins beyond their boundary of restraint and better judgment. Relating to their frustration with Gil is a natural reaction most of us take.
Being personally familiar with the 30-day 12-step program and AA, I felt that Erika Hoveland, as Sylvia, was all too real going threw detox. Watching her degression as Gill enabled her drinking to the point of psychotic behavior was painful. At that moment, she stole the show.
One unforgettable character is Anthony Hornus, Co-Producer and as Sheriff Calvin “Greeny” Pierce. In a closeup, the lines on his face speak of authority and bring peace of mind as a father looks at his child. But without saying a word, his expressions leave no doubt about what he is capable of thinking and doing. I would not argue with this cop, but I would be glad to have him as a friend.
Co-Producer, Melissa Anschutz’s character Mandy is the perfect opposite of someone from the Winter Wonderland of Michigan. She will tell you immediately that she is not from around here with her east-coast accent and salty temperament.
I have one more thing to say about Erika Hoveland’s performance as Sylvia. She gets the “Valley of the dolls” award for her emotions that were so vividly portrayed on screen. If you have not personally experienced drug addiction either as an addict or as a friend or family member of one, Syliva gave you a true vision but a slight glimpse of what addiction has as its consequences.
Important message, we are all vulnerable. Families must sometimes fight to stay together; things can get better if you are willing to do what is necessary to make it happen.
But there may be new life from the ashes of the old as Gill and Silvia have to re-learn how to live without drinking. This will take the support of all friends and family for them to make it.
We all have past failures, which become more apparent in our memories when we witness someone else’s. We all have left a wrench behind sometime in our life that has un-internally monkeyed up things for others. All of us have run off the playground at one time or another. Before the final flag is waved, will we be able to admit we were going in the wrong direction, turn our lives around and start over?
I highly recommend anyone struggling with addiction to enjoy this with the entire family. All will profit from watching this film. Make sure you watch “Behind the Scenes” on the DVD, and you will see that Collective Development Inc. members are a family of talent mixed together with the right amount of inspiration and creation. So a special shout-out to all of them that were not mentioned here.
Alcoholism is a personal illness that affects the entire family, anyway you cut it, some of us don’t have it to give, and some of us are like Gil Gilles and try to give more than we have. Wolf!