“We Are the Hartmans”

 Silly but Fun

 Amos Lassen

 Richard Chamberlain portrays Hartman, the owner of Hartman’s Rock Club and when he gets sick, his family from whom he has been estranged comes to town to sell the place and pocket the money. They certainly did not expect to find a rebellion made up of drag queens, drunks and musicians.

 The film looks at the demise of local businesses with the influx of large chains taking over. The Club had its own personality and people who frequented it always felt at home and they do not want to lose it. Hartman’s is that kind of place where people who do not fit anywhere feel good when they come in. Even though the film gets very silly at times, this is a movie with lots of heart. Aside from Chamberlain, the cast is made up of unknowns and they work well but ultimately this is Chamberlain’s film and he is excellent. It is really fun to watch him in a comedy role. He “plays the moribund, very-often-stoned, owner of [the] small town” watering hole.

Laura Newman wrote and directed this film about a club in a rural community but it could really be anywhere. Like in so many places, chain stores and restaurants have moved in and have caused the demise of the “mom and pop” stores and what was folk country becomes like any place else. Hartman is an aging hippie who has always lived in his town and he is a true free spirit. However, his lifestyle catches up with him. His wife and daughters left him long ago but they come back when the bar is for sale. We learn when Hartman tells his daughter that he built the club for his children. The town is filled with eccentric people and Hartman is like the acting mayor. We meet him when the film opens and he is organizing a benefit so that he can keep the club and make sure that the Big Box (Wal-Mart) will not come in. He brings in a rock star, Baxter (Jonah Spear) to lead a concert. Suddenly Hartman becomes very sick and others must take over.

The entire cast is excellent and we are aware of the collaborative efforts of everyone. While the film is a comedy, it carries a very strong message. The music is wonderful in this film that leaves you with a sense of feeling good.