Banking its success on a few lucky numbers.

What is the American dream? There was a time when it meant a person could work hard and achieve a meaningful goal. Now, that dreams is to spend a buck and win the lottery with the aim of doing as little as possible.

Well, that’s not the case in Highland Park, not entirely anyway. The story revolves around a group of educators discovering that their high school is going through heavy layoffs due to budget cuts. Billy Burke plays Principal Lloyd Howard who must decide on who should lose their jobs. Principal Howard is a well-meaning man with the interest of his town, Highland Park, his faculty and his students in mind.

The budget cuts are a direct result of mismanagement and corruption from Mayor Shirley Paine (Parker Posey), who’s personal slogan is, “Feel the Pain.”

In one final act of desperation, the group decides to play their lucky lottery numbers one final time. Ed (Danny Glover) is tasked with goal of buying the lucky ticket, using the same numbers that they have used the last 10 years. Ed is overcome with depression and superstition, but this time could be different, because this time they win … or do they?

What would you do if you won $252 million dollars? That’s the question that these citizens of Highland Park must ask.

The altruistic Principal Howard takes the opportunity to good with his winnings … that’s his dream. He plans on saving the school, reviving the town and confronting the mayor. Stoner bus driver, Jesse (Eric Ladin) is intent on winning back his wife and child with his share of the money. They all have goals and dreams, some more meaningful then others – some simply to live!

Highland Park plays up on the moments of weakness and arrogance with all of the characters. The movie attempts to make a statement about society and who we are as people in both the best and worst of times (sometimes they are the same thing).

While most of the characters plot and plan about the ways they will spend their money and live the rest of their lives, Ed is suddenly nowhere to be found, away on a fishing trip and out of reach. It challenges the very being of who these people are and who they will become.

Amidst all the planning, there is a secret hiding and waiting to be discovered. When the story reaches its climax and its final (and predictable) outcome, the town, the teachers, and Principal Howard learn who they truly are. Parker Posey tries very hard to be the evil spirit of the movie, but her Mayor Paine is overplayed and not quite as entertaining as the role could have or should have been.

Highland Park tries and tries to be something meaningful providing a social commentary on greed, the misuse of power, and the significance of friendship, but it never quite hits its mark. Much of the writing is contrived and missing its intent. The movie is entertaining and watchable but never quite as substantial as it would like to be.

Grade: B-


Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine