Last week we at Back Lot 605 were lucky enough to interview the writer/director of Tater Tot & Patton, Andrew Kightlinger. Kightlinger, a native of Pierre, SD, has been on a roadshow for the last week screening his film all over the plains of South Dakota. The Back Lot crew had the chance to see a screening in Sioux Falls at the Wells Fargo Cine-Dome this past weekend. Screenings can still be found across the state, as well as VOD later this spring.
Tater Tot & Patton – Synopsis
Erwin (Bates Wilder) lives a secluded life on his South Dakota ranch. He spends most of his days driving the line on the ranch and drinking his life away. Erwin’s niece, Andie (Jessica Rothe), joins him on his ranch after a string of alcohol and drug induced incidents. Andie is a city girl, living the easy life with her mother in Los Angeles. The two begin at odds with Andie refusing to adapt to the ranch life, and Erwin unable to show any sort of sympathy towards his niece.
Tater Tot & Patton – What I Liked
Andrew Kightlinger delivers in his representation of isolation, instability, and redemption. He uses this endless sea of South Dakota grasslands to represent the isolation felt by these characters. Erwin is a lost soul. He uses alcohol to mask the true heartbreak that he has felt. Bates Wilder delivers a stellar performance, showing heart, loss, and humility sometimes in the same scene.
Jessica Rothe further proves that she is a star in the making. Her performances in the Happy Death Day series are the highlight of those films. Much like those performances, Rothe is able to show a wide range of her acting skills in Tater Tot & Patton. Although her backstory is brushed over just slightly, her performance allows the audience to care for her just as much as they do Erwin.
One of the biggest strengths this film has, besides stellar performances, is a fantastic screenplay. Kightlinger delivers in what many dramatic films fail to do, balance the dramatic moments with comedy. The real world is full of sorrow and sadness, but also filled with laughter and happiness. Kightlinger delivers this real life emotion to his film. This allows the characters to feel more real, and for audiences to connect with these characters.
Tater Tot & Patton – What Could Have Been Improved
All in all Tater Tot & Patton is a well crafted piece of independent cinema. The only real complaint I would have with the film is I felt a disconnect between Andie and her mother. This aspect was never fully explored in the film, besides a single scene. I feel that this could have been explored further to give more depth to her character. A scene reuniting the mother and daughter would have added further closure to Andie’s journey.
This film going to be something very special for the state of South Dakota. The art of film has yet to fully be explored in the great plains, and Tater Tot & Patton proves that great stories can be found here. With a crew consisting of mostly South Dakota natives, and entirely shot in the state, this is hope that more films can come from here. In a world filled with big budget superhero films and endless sequels, it is refreshing to see the true heart of America represented on the big screen.
Overall Score 4/5