Desert Alms
Grand Theft Parsons
Review by Ross Anthony

This is a quirky road trip film based on a country-rock legend that happens to be true. In the very first scene of the movie, Gram Parsons dies, from then on his road manager/right-hand man/best friend spends the rest of the film trying to fulfill a blood-brothers promise. Namely, the living friend will cremate the remains of the first to pass on. That burning is to be done in the Joshua Tree desert (an area that they both loved).

I've been to Joshua tree desert, not sure why they loved it - nor did the film give me any reason to. While one can appreciate a production that jumps right in, the shots of Johnny Knoxville in the desert draw attention to his unique (but insignificant) motor-tricycle more than they do the beauty of the desert. So this is an area that could have rather easily been improved.

But this is essentially a comedy. Yes, there are one or two heartfelt moments ... but the film is chock-full of fun wisecracks, ironies and otherwise quirky oddities. Huge kudos to Michael Shannon who plays "The hippie," he's believable & loveable as the pseudo-enlightened junkie. Shannon carries the film. I also enjoy Robert Forster wherever I see him. While Johnny is just plain likeable (on screen and off), he's an actor who's still learning a lot about the profession. I think he'll be very skilled at it somewhere down the line, but for now ... average + heart works well enough.

Speaking of heart, the film could have taken much more advantage of its own intrinsic warm heart. Still, with the feel of a project that was put together with more fun and passion than money and time, "Grand Theft" goes a good distance.

  1. The real life road manager (Phil Kaufman) says of Knoxville, "It takes a smart *ss to play a smart *ss." (Kaufman lent Knoxville his jacket for the film).

  2. Interestingly enough, the film is funded by Wall Street traders who felt a bond with the film's theme (they both had close friends that died in the Twin Towers attack). (They named the production company after those friends.)

  3. The film is shot at authentic locations -- including the motel room in which Parsons died.

  • Grand Theft Parsons. Copyright © 2004.
  • Starring Johnny Knoxville, Michael Shannon, Christina Applegate, Robert Forster, Marley Shelton, Gabriel Macht.
  • Directed by David Caffrey.
  • Screenplay by Jeremy Drysdale.
  • Produced by Frank Mannion at Morty-Stevie G/Swipe. (c) 2004.

Grade..........................B+ (2/4)

Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:10:17 PDT