Sunday, April 28, 2013

Independent Film Festival Boston 2013 Opening Night: The Spectacular Now

First day of the festival! Well, it was four days ago (five by the time this gets posted), but seeing a bunch of movies doesn't leave one a whole bunch of time to write about them. Trying to more or less go in order when this is the opening night picture also turns out to be tough, but we'll get to that later.

I was actually running behind from the start; I usually attend on a press pass, but I missed the deadline for applying this year. While eFilmCritic has had its challenges over the past year, it's not like I was worried about not getting accredited; I just tend to be very sequential, and by the time I'd finished with all the reviews for the Boston Underground Film Festival, the deadline had passed. Thoroughly embarrassing, but it's not like I mind giving the IFFBoston people money. They're all-volunteer and do great work; it's not like they're getting rich off these donations/purchases (and I can't say I'd mind if they did).

I continued running late because of work - whole day of nothing, then emails with needs at 4:30pm - so when I arrived to pick up my pass, there wasn't any need to queue up, just head straight in and find myself a row well-off-center in the front row, and enjoy the theremin.

Theremin! photo IMAG0346_zps43465d91.jpg

Not sure how this became a thing, but it has; I think there's been theremin before opening night for five years now. It's always cool, though.

IFFBoston Staff photo IMAG0347_zpsc6df5918.jpg

If you've been coming to the festival for a while, you know these folks by now: Brian Tamm, Adam Roffman, Christine Harbaugh, Nancy Campbell, and Dan McCallum. The fellow on the right may also be familiar; it's Casey Affleck, who was announced as a "Creative Consultant" a couple months back. As an outsider, I don't necessarily know what any of the folks involved do, specifically, and that seems like an even more nebulous position. Still, having a guy with that sort of name recognition in Hollywood might help them bring in more prominent narrative features.

Also, he's a decent arm. One of the things that they do at the start of the opening and closing nights is give away previous years' t-shirts (and some new ones) by throwing them into the crowd, and getting them into the balcony is rare. I don't know if Casey got one up there, but I saw him wince after one toss, so I'm guessing that someone wound up with a t-shirt by catching it in the face.

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Adam and The Spectacular Now's James Ponsoldt (director) & Michael H. Weber (screenwriter)

Anyway, that's the festival; what about the movie? It's pretty good, although it took me a while to write the review, just out of being busy. The film itself made it a bit tricky, too - at one frustrated point, I figured it was an example of how a movie could be good without actually being interesting. It's a somewhat unfair judgment, which reflects the way I feel about coming-of-age movies more than anything - basically, they really have to be something special, because otherwise, they're kind of as same-y as genre films are often accused of being, at least in the broad strokes.

The Spectacular Now

* * * (out of four)
Seen 24 April 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Independent Film Festival Boston, DCP?)

It's hard enough to try to review the first films to play a festival, writing a paragraph at a time between other screenings, but something like The Spectacular Now makes it even more difficult. It's does almost nothing wrong and the cast is pretty great. It's easy enough to recommend, though, managing to be quite good if not quite, well, spectacular.

Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) was just dumped by his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) over something that seems innocent enough, although given how quickly she's paired up with star athlete Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi), she might have just been looking for an excuse. Upset, Sutter gets drunk, and is found passed out the next morning by Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley) on her paper route. They start hanging out together.

Kids grow up so fast today. Time was, you'd get movies about troubled teenagers and movies about alcoholics driving their lives into the ground, and they'd be separate movies made for separate audiences. This two-for-one deal of a movie hardly chronicles a new phenomenon, and it's certainly not the first time I've seen teenagers drinking on-screen, but I don't know if it's ever been so central to the characters rather than just a reaction to other things going on. In fact, it still mostly plays that way - it's not about people feeling like they need to help Sutter get sober, so the audience will tend to look elsewhere for some other root to his issues until it eventually becomes clear that this is something pervasive, not a weekend-binging reaction.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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