This is the tale of one man who went to Hollywood to follow his dream only to find it back home in Alabama after all. How loosely this wee fictionalized drama is based on filmmaker Philip Irwin Cooper’s real life, we are not quite sure, but given the fact that he wrote, directed, produced and starred in it would indicate that it is probably pretty close.
He plays Philip Stalworth a 40-something-year-old actor who is increasing finding that he is too old for most acting roles he goes up for in L.A., and if that is not enough his relationship with his girlfriend Caroline (Erica Shaffer) is ending. So when he gets a call from his sister known as Sis (Alison Elliott) saying that Tina (a stunning Mariette Hartley) their mother has advanced lung cancer he hops on a plane to Alabama for a extended visit.
Home and seeing his family at close quarters after these years Phillip how maddeningly Southern they are. Tina is quite the free spirt and so he persuades her to read a book about alternative treatments, and it just so happens that soon after she has tried a few of them, her Doctor tells her that her tumor seems to be receding. She responds by immediately deciding to now stop all her conventional treatments.
There are even more surprises at the neighbors house where the occupants have temporarily moved out whilst their handyman son Joe (Peter Stebbings) is doing major renovations for them. It turns out that the house is not the only thing he wants to make over and he brazenly makes a pass at Phillip even though he has no real idea of his sexuality, and whether he will be rebuffed. As it happens Phillip is equally unsure of himself too, but responds and finds that he more than likes it. The two men settle into a comfortable affair that seems like it may even have a future, that is until Phillip’s father Garrett (John Heard) catches them in an embrace which pushes Phillip back into the closet.
The only inevitable now in the story line is Tina’s impending death as ever since she has refused treatment her health has seriously deteriorated leaving the rest of the family flailing around not knowing what to do for the best. There had been talk at one time that maybe Joe would also move to California but now that the men have barely spoken this is no longer a certainty. The next time that they meet is soon after Tina’s funeral as Phillip is preparing to head back to L.A. but we are never sure if he will make the journey on his own.
Counting for Thunder is a charming old-fashioned tale of both family love and romance. It’s a very belated coming-of-age story of these two men who are now dealing with both their sexuality, and the realization too that it really is time to make it out in the big wide world.