Along a desolate roadside of dusty Lovelock, Nevada we find young ARDEN TEX (15). He waits in silk matching pajamas until finally, an old mailman pulls up and hands Arden the acceptance letter to Harvard he’s been waiting for. He’s hardly surprised. His father, CYRUS TEX, is an alcoholic rodeo clown that fails to get Arden, yet loving in his own way. In a drunken tirade, Cyrus guns down the neighbor’s cat, mistaking it for a squirrel. GRACIE, Arden’s mother, arrives home and has Arden try to save the cat on the kitchen table using knives and forks as instruments. Arden’s genius is evident, but also his love for his mother, as he promises to someday save Gracie from her cancer. Later that night, Gracie asks Arden a favor— to return to Lovelock to look after his father. Her death is eminent, and it gives her piece of mind to know that Arden will be there for Cyrus, at least for some time. Grudgingly, Arden agrees.
Arden is now 21 and returns to Lovelock as a precocious surgeon. He’s tried to abandon his awkward look for something out of a soap opera-- a fancy Italian suit, designer shades and slicked back hair. While Cyrus is excited to have his son back, Arden isn’t so thrilled. He’s greeted at the local hospital by DOCTOR BOOKBINDER, a body-building, short-tempered administrator who is more interested in showing Arden the R.R. (recreational room), than the O.R. Arden tells Bookbinder that both of his parents are dead, and that his name is Arden
Six months pass, and it is clear that the nurses have had it with Arden, “he’s like an anti-Doogie.” We find Arden operating on FREIA WYNN (20’s), a strikingly beautiful woman who seems to catch Arden’s interest as she peacefully sleeps. During the surgery, an emergency phone call is patched through the intercom. It’s Cyrus, in jail for public drunkenness, and needing bail money. Arden is humiliated and pretends it’s some confused bum.
Arden’s grandiose attitude and horrible bedside manner starts to catch up with him. An obese woman sees Arden for possible gastric bypass surgery, and Arden refuses. Instead, he gives her a prescription that reads “Stop stuffing face.” Bookbinder’s temper and frustration are peeking and mandates that Arden see a psychiatrist or “find some other small town to torture!” Arden almost does, but decides to stay and see the psychiatrist for the sake of his dead mother.
The psychiatrist, DOCTOR LAROUX, is French, older and dead-set on making Arden a better person and deep down, Arden is starting to question what he’s doing so wrong. He agrees to give her a chance. Laroux has Arden engage in various tasks, and the first one is to find a “little brother” to mentor at the local boy’s shelter.
In the meantime, Arden is seeing a lot of Freia in the office, and they finally agree to go out on a date. Arden just barely loosens up enough to have fun, and she gets Arden to steal an Eskimo trinket for her. She’s from Alaska and longs for its peaceful serenity. She tells Arden there’s more to Arden than him being a “heartless” surgeon, as everyone else seems to think. Arden’s insists he’s actually heartless. He drops her off at a beautiful white estate home.
The next day, Arden meets with the “little brother,” NIKOLAI (14) who is Russian, parentless and hardly speaks English. Arden agrees to mentor him, though he feels he didn’t get “the pick of the lot.”
Laroux feels Arden has never had a proper childhood and asks for him to buy “a simple little kick scooter” and enjoy a basic pleasure.
Cyrus has a Christmas feast and insists that Arden bring Freia. Upon meeting Cyrus, Freia’s surprised, “Arden told me his parents were…dead.” Cyrus comes back, “He tells everyone that…” Over dinner, Cyrus reveals to Freia he’s a rodeo clown and invites her to one of his shows. It’s more than Arden can take in embarrassment, and in a heated exchange between dad and son the moment turns awkward. Cyrus settles it by raising a tequila shot in the air and making a toast to Lovelock-- the place where “there’s no escapin’ love, though God knows we try our best.”
The next day Arden and Freia are on the “simple” scooter he was supposed to buy—of course it’s a souped-up version with a high power motor, racing tires, and cruising along the freeway at 80 MPH. Freia loves it as she clings to Arden for dear life. They frolic at the Lovelock Indian Caves where we see a softer side of Arden. Later that night, they make love.
Trouble in paradise. Bookbinder gives Arden an ultimatum that he must sign apology letters to his patients or he’s done. Arden quits. Meanwhile, Gabriel (20’s), a good-looking Latino boyfriend of Freia, returns from a job in Spain. He convinces her to meet at the bar and later that night we discover there’s more to Freia. She tells Gabriel she’s been sober, and is really into Arden. But a few drinks later, the drugs, alcohol and partying come back like a pesky friend. She ignores Arden’s call.
Arden is with Nikolai and they can’t reach Freia. They decide to go to Freia’s “estate home” and discover she doesn’t really live there. They find out her real home is in the slums, she’s never really been to Alaska, and while poking about her bedroom, Arden finds vials of morphine that were stolen from his office. He storms out.
Next day, Arden meets Cyrus at the rodeo intending to tell him he’s leaving Lovelock. Before he can, though, Cyrus turns earnest (in his clown get-up) and tells Arden how much he means to him and that he’s decided to sober up for his son. They have a moment and hug. Soon after, Cyrus has an accident while freeing a bull rider from his bindings. Later that night he’s rushed to the hospital. Arden fails to save his life and for the first time, Arden tears up.
Arden gives a eulogy to a church full of Cyrus’ friends. The eulogy goes so bad the minister threatens to call security if he doesn’t stop. Arden marches off and as he speeds away in the parking lot, he shouts at Nikolai who runs after him, “Sorry, Nikolai, it’s time I meet an old friend of Cyrus’!” …which turns out to be a bottle of whiskey.
Arden shows up at his Father’s funeral reception completely inebriated. Freia is there and they confront one another. Freia tells Arden she lied to Arden at first but has fallen in love with him, and wants a new life, without the drugs, or alcohol, or lies. Arden
scoffs at her, and eventually embarrasses her in front of the entire restaurant. Arden stumbles out, shouting “to hell with all of you!” Nikolai runs after him, and drives him home.
Weeks pass and Arden is an unkempt mess in pajamas. Arden begins to disintegrate to the point where Laroux hardly recognizes him. He tells her that Harvard offered him a position, and even though he finally can get out of this “shit town,” he’s not happy about it. With Laroux’s help, Arden finally realizes what’s important. He goes after Freia and with his trusty friend, Nikolai, finds her at a drug rehab facility…where she’s a counselor. Arden confesses that he’s lied to Freia, too—his last name isn’t Nixx, it’s Tex, just like his dad, and the fancy suits and pretentious attitude was all just a façade. They get back together and with Nikolai, they drive off to visit Alaska, as Freia always dreamed.
2007 Wernher Ovalle
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