Monday, August 14, 2006


Well, the good news is that independent film lives. Over the last few years, it’s been feeling more and more like in order for a so-called “indie film” to be released, it has to have at least one big star (preferably a well-known comedic actor making an unexpected dramatic turn), a $5-10 million budget, unnaturally quirky characters, a plot revolving around budding romance or eccentric families, and be all fine-tuned for release through Focus Features or Fox Searchlight.

But every now and again, I’m reminded that it’s still possible for a bunch of friends, or even one person, with a vision to produce something truly original with almost no money and get it out there. Really make it happen. And build a whole career that all started with a tiny independent effort. The most recent shot at it was Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004), which is what you should be watching right now instead of doing whatever else you had planned for the evening, and I can only hope he’s following the trail of his predecessors. Richard Linklater did it with Slacker (1991), Robert Rodriguez with El Mariachi (1992), Kevin Smith with Clerks, Wes Anderson with Bottle Rocket (1996). Jay and Mark Duplass have done it with The Puffy Chair, a movie made for $15,000 and being shown right now only in Portland (represent!) and New York. It’s traveling around the U.S., but you should check it out now while you can.

Essentially, it’s about a guy, his girlfriend, and his brother traveling to pick up a purple LazyBoy he bought for his father on eBay, then to deliver it to his father for his birthday. It’s a road trip movie, and for 85 minutes it feels damn leisurely, as any road trip should. But plot is besides the point, it’s the characters here that make it. It’s one thing to have good characters. A lot of movies have good characters. But it’s pretty damn rare, even more for a first-time writing/directing team, to develop great characters. Characters with a depth that isn’t necessarily spoken aloud, and who have as many interesting negative traits as they do positive. And then it’s a whole other issue to find actors to make them watchable. Nobody wants to watch people with too many flaws, but these three actors are all fantastic. I’d watch any of them in any other movie in a heartbeat. They’re funny, nuanced, and unbelievably engaging performers. Most movies are lucky to get one actor or actress as instantly engaging as these three are. Put them together in a room, it’s no surprise the end result is as good as this film is. I don't know if they improvised their dialogue, but it comes off extemely natural, relatable, and once again...engaging and interesting. I'll be quoting "I brought my own nutsack"...well, until I get sick of it at least.

I have big problems with the end of the film, which I won’t discuss here for all the obvious reasons. But thinking it over, the 83 minutes that preceded it were so much better than a lot of the stuff that’s come out this year, that it’s an easy recommendation, as my only trepidations with the ending are personal (please forgive me if I completely misused "trepidations").

I’ve kinda slowed on the reviews, partly because it’s been awhile since there’s been something to really encourage you guys to go see (aside from Clerks II, which I regret not writing about...oh, and I probably should've written that you shouldn't see Talladega Nights), so take this as a huge encouragement. It’s worth seeking out truly good movies, but it’s especially worth the effort when you’re not sure what their shelf life will be (though the fact that part of its theatrical distribution was financed through Netflix is encouraging). Independent cinema lives.


Ken said...

but is it as good as clerks ii?

Katie said...

the movie was pretty good, i dunno, i feel like i wasn't in the right mood for an indie movie, i needed something more mindless, you know? anyway. my biggest complaint with the movie was the girlfriend, it was like you could *totally* tell she was created from a twenty-something guy's point of view. jesus christ, she was like, a guy's perspective of everything frustrating and completely illogical about women, and made me kinda hate my gender even though i'm really not like her at all. i like to think.

Cynda said...
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Scott said...

Ken, nothing is as good as Clerks 2.

I think Katie nailed it about the chick, but I would say that the main guy was probably the most flawed of any of the characters. Certainly more than the chick.