While the days of cowboys, horses, saloons, and quickdraws have come and gone, train robberies are still in style. Outlaws aren’t grizzled, dust-covered bandits of the wild west. Instead, the criminal masterminds behind serial locomotive larceny are two high school girls, one the valedictorian with dreams of a higher education, the other a shy entry into the Teen Miss Idaho pageant. Move over Jesse James and Butch Cassidy—the Tanner sisters are here.
Deidra & Laney Rob A Train is the latest in the line of Netflix original movies. The 100-minute comedy takes place in a small rural town in the Pacific Northwest. Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) and Laney Tanner (Rachel Crow) find themselves without a paddle when their mother Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) has a breakdown at work. Marigold shattered an expensive television and resisted arrest, and is now in jail. To have enough for her mother’s bail, a first (and second) mortgage, water, electricity, and food, Deidra recruits her sister to begin robbing trains.
It is very early in Deidra & Laney Rob A Train, and the film is already making the audience think. This is not a happy-go-lucky, screwball by-the-books comedy. The characters in this film face real problems and have relatable motivations. A particularly poignant scene comes when Deidra, Laney, and their little brother Jet (Lance Gray) visit their mother in jail. Deidra tries in vain to get her mother to think or talk about her impending court case, but her mother instead only talks about how therapeutic cutting carrots in the jail kitchen is. At this very moment, the audience can itself on Deidra’s side immediately. Deidra is a smart young woman, just trying to do the best she can while her mother is in jail. Marigold seems like the bad guy, as all she can be bothered to do is seem relieved that she doesn’t have to worry about her family, job, or bills while she in locked up. Yet, taking a step back, the audience might be too quick to judge Marigold. She is an overworked and unappreciated single mother of three. Everything she has, she gives to her family. She has clearly suffered a break of some sort, and to see her oldest daughter caring for the family so well helps her to reconcile her incarceration with her responsibilities. Deidra & Laney Rob A Train has almost no one-dimensional characters. Each and every one of these people have clearly understood desires, wants, and actions. Few movies, especially comedies, can make that claim.
When Deidra and Laney actually start living up to the title of the film, a new character is introduced. Truman (Tim Blake Nelson), a “detective” working for the Pacific Northwest Railroad, is sent to investigate the robberies. The girls have been breaking into shipping containers and taking a few boxes of stuff to sell. Truman begins his detective work. The inclusion of this character is particularly interesting. From the girls’ point of view, as well as the point of view Deidra & Laney Rob A Train nudges the audiences toward, Truman is the antagonist. He is the typical small man in a big uniform. He acts like he is an actual police officer, insisting that everyone refer to him as “detective.” Truman’s role is to foil the Tanners’ plans. And how dare he? Deidra and Laney just want enough money to pay their bills and bail their mother out. If they don’t get enough to keep the lights on and food on the table, child services will take Laney and Jet away from Deidra. If they don’t get enough money for bail, Deidra will be stuck caring for her siblings and will be unable to go to college. But, again taking a step back, Truman is just doing his job, if a little overzealously. The Tanner girls are breaking the law. The things they take may be insured, but it doesn’t make it right. Deidra also makes others complicit in her crime. Her sister Laney, the friends she sells the stolen things to, the guidance counselor she manipulates, and even her estranged father Chet (David Sullivan) who starts assisting them in their robberies.
Deidra & Laney Rob A Train is a great comedy, but besides that it is a thoughtful movie. Every character, along with all of their motivations are fully fleshed out. There are laughs to be had, but there is a lot more heart. An interesting story from multiple angles, the film could be watched over and over, trying to see things from different points of view. Everyone can relate to this movie, regardless of their financial backgrounds. Deidra & Laney Rob A Train, even in 2017, makes train robbery seem cool.
Featured Image By Netflix