Winter Passing

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Winter Passing
Winter passing.jpg
Promotional movie poster
Directed by Adam Rapp
Produced by David Koplan
P. Jennifer Dana
Written by Adam Rapp
Starring Ed Harris
Zooey Deschanel
Will Ferrell
Amelia Warner
Music by John Kimbrough, The Eagles, Azure Ray
Cinematography Terry Stacey
Edited by Meg Reticker
Distributed by Focus Features
Release date
September 10th, 2005 (TIFF)
February 17, 2006
Running time
98 minutes
Country U.S.
Language English
Budget $3,500,000

Winter Passing is a 2005 American film. It is the directorial debut of playwright Adam Rapp, also known for his work on the show The L Word. The film stars Zooey Deschanel and Ed Harris, with supporting performances by Will Ferrell and Amelia Warner. The film premiered in 2005 to mixed reviews, and was not released in the United Kingdom until 2013, when it was released under the new title Happy Endings.[1]


Reese Holdin (Deschanel) is a depressed bartender/actress living in New York City. She regularly engages in casual sex, cocaine use and self-mutilation. When a publishing agent (Amy Madigan) approaches her, we learn that Reese is the daughter of a famous author named Don Holdin (Harris); and that her mother, Mary, recently died. Reese did not attend the funeral. The publisher offers the impecunious Reese $100,000 for a series of letters written between her mother and father at the height of their careers. When Reese learns that the kitten she rescued from the streets is dying of feline leukemia, she drowns it and buys a bus ticket.

Despite such family tensions, Reese travels to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to retrieve the letters. Returning to her childhood home, she finds it occupied by Corbit (Ferrell), a down-and-out Christian musician, and Shelley (Warner), a 23-year-old former student of Don's. Reese's father now lives, writes and drinks in his garage. Reese initially clashes with the doting Shelley (whom she accuses of sleeping with her father) but eventually accepts her after learning of the death of her parents and of Don's support of her during a near-fatal bout with endometriosis. She also bonds with the idiosyncratic Corbit, who spurns her sexual advances and has trouble playing guitar and singing at the same time. She feels out of place at home and fights with her father over childhood neglect, stating that her parents gave their typewriters more attention. She eventually finds the box of letters and, reading the emotional communiques, learns to empathize with her estranged parents. Shelly has also read the letters and asks Reese if she intends to publish them. Reese expresses ambiguity over the matter.

Don Holdin is still grieving over his wife's death. He keeps the tie she hanged herself with in a dresser in the backyard along with the rest of their bedroom suite, including their bed. He sometimes sleeps in the bed despite the bitter cold of winter. Reese starts to connect with Corbit and Shelly and is honest with her father about her reasons for staying away from the funeral. Soon after, Don overdoses on pills, and Reese finds him unconscious. He recovers in the hospital, where Reese sits by his bed and reads his latest manuscript, Golf, which he had Corbit bury in the yard. The experience helps the father and daughter find closure, and Reese buries the box of letters in place of the novel before returning to New York.



Some film critics have voiced suspicions that one or more of the film's characters are based on famous people. New York Times film and music critic Stephen Holden suggests J.D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Ted Hughes and Ernest Hemingway as possible bases for Reese's parents.[2] Film critic Roger Ebert suggests Frederick Exley as the most likely basis for Don's character.[3] The name "Holdin" could derive from Holden Caulfield, Salinger's most famous character, while the Holdin family history is reminiscent of Salinger's own family as described in his daughter's memoir Dream Catcher.[4]

Winter Passing is the only film to date known to speak of Traverse City, Michigan. It was included in the 2006 Traverse City Film Festival for this reason, winning an award for "Best Use of the Words Traverse City in a Feature Film." [5]


  1. ^ Internet Movie Data Base
  2. ^ New York Times, Stephen Holden's Review
  3. ^ Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert's Review
  4. ^ Salinger, Margaret A. Dream Catcher: A Memoir. New York: Washington Square Press, 2000. ISBN 0-671-04282-3
  5. ^ Traverse City Film Festival, Official Site

External links[edit]