BLOGS

Movies Without Pity
Indie Snapshot: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There's some good (12 O'Clock Boys), some bad (Love is in the Air) and a lotta ugly (Somewhere Slow and The Wait) invading art houses this weekend.

Much hullaballoo was raised at this year's just-concluded Sundance Film Festival about Richard Linklater's decade-in-the-making Boyhood, in which the director chronicled one boy's coming of age over a 12-year shoot. To a certain extent, Lofty Nathan's terrific documentary 12 O'Clock Boys does the same thing on a smaller scale. For three years, Nathan filmed a young Baltimore kid named Pug, who we first meet as a wide-eyed, open-hearted 13-year-old and watch age into a cynical, vaguely cruel 16-year-old, who is on the cusp of achieving a long-held dream… even though that dream may cost him dearly. Pug's driving ambition in life is to be a member of the "12 O'Clock Boys," a crack squad of dirt-bike enthusiasts who illegally ride their vehicles through the B'more streets, performing tricks (their names comes from their signature move, which involves popping a wheelie far enough back that man-and-machine resemble the twin hands of a clock) and videotaping their exploits.

At first, Pug's older brother -- one of several children being raised by his single mom, Coco -- is able to nudge him back in the direction of a more productive pastime, but when he dies suddenly, biking takes over his surviving sibling's life, with the 12 O'Clocker's coming to provide the sense of family and camaraderie that he doesn’t get at home, where his mother preaches the "live for today, because tomorrow you might be dead" motto over and over. It's that lesson, along with the challenges of living on the lower rungs of a troubled city, that ultimately drives Pug to throw his lot in with his new brothers, embracing an outlaw role (and its accompanying "me against the world" attitude) that suggests a troubled path ahead. Though Nathan leaves him at that crossroads, a police officer briefly appears on camera to sum up his probable trajectory: fights, arrests and, ultimately, jail time. That Nathan is able to cover so much ground -- and provide such a nuanced account (as serious as the subject matter is, there are moments of wonderful levity strewn throughout the film as well) of the uphill battle facing boys like Pug in depressed environments like Baltimore -- in a mere 76 minutes makes 12 O'Clock Boys all the more remarkable and essential.

Levity is one of the things missing from Somewhere Slow, an indie star vehicle for Glee refugee Jessalyn Gilsig, cast here as cosmetics saleswoman Anna Thompson, whose seemingly comfortable life explodes following one very bad day. The cracks are there from the beginning: she's trapped in a marriage to a husband (David Costabile) she doesn't seem to like all that much; she's binge-eating and then puking in anonymous fast food joints; and her cancer-stricken mother and obnoxious sister alternately coddle and berate her. It's when she's unexpectedly (and unfairly) fired from her job that she finally goes off the reservation, grabbing the cash from a convenience store robber she happens to witness and getting on the first bus out of town. On her journey to nowhere in particular, she encounters another drifter -- ex-Mormon missionary Travis (Graham Patrick Martin) -- and the two eventually settle down at Anna's old lakeside cabin, where predictable emotional (and sexual) bonding ensues. Their relationship only really tracks, though, if you consider Anna to be mentally unstable (which is how Gilsig plays it for as long as the script allows her) as opposed to being on a voyage of self-discovery, which is how writer/director Jeremy O'Keefe seems eager to characterize it. The former characterization doesn't improve the movie much, but it does make some vague semblance of sense; the latter is just plain dumb.

Proof that Hollywood isn't the only film industry capable of churning out weightless and mindless rom-coms, the glossy French romance Love is in the Air plugs former indie darling Ludivine Sagnier and Nicolas Bedos into roles that will be played by Amanda Seyfried and Ashton Kutcher in the inevitable American remake. Three years after their love affair ended in tears and recriminations, commitment-phobic artist Julie (Sagnier) and playboy Antoine (Bedos) unexpectedly reunite as business class seatmates on a New York-to-Paris transatlantic flight. The six hour journey rewards them with ample time to review their romantic history for our supposed amusement, a tale that begins with a meet cute at a party followed by a date atop the Eiffel Tower… and ends with her discovering a stacked brunette hiding in his apartment closet. At the same time, this recap also affords them the opportunity to remember how great they were together, as well as discovering key details about their falling-out that maybe, just maybe, will rekindle that old loving feeling. (Who are we kidding? Of course they will.) While Bedos is little more than a pretty Gallic face, Saginer is highly appealing in a highly predictable Meg Ryan-esque role. She probably won't (and most definitely shouldn't) opt to continue to follow in Ryan's footsteps, but for one middling movie, it's not a bad look for her at all.

Just as her scene-stealing turn as Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games sequel briefly made Jena Malone relevant again, along comes The Wait to push her back into the ranks of interchangeable Indiewood actresses. Written and directed by M. Blash, this tedious mood piece partners Malone with Chloë Sevigny as sisters who have decided against burying their recently deceased mother out of the unfounded belief that she'll soon rise again. So while Mom rots underneath a blanket in her bedroom, her daughters drift through the passing days unable and unwilling to move on. Not content to let these two compete for the title of Most Passive Nincompoops by themselves, a host of other blank-faced characters pass through the frame with nebulous goals and even more nebulous personalities. No wonder Mom shuffled off this mortal coil -- being surrounded by this batch of boring non-entities would make anyone want to believe that a better life awaits after death.

Keep up with Movies Without Pity on Facebook and Tumblr

Comments

SHARE THE SNARK

X

Get the most of your experience.
Share the Snark!

See content relevant to you based on what your friends are reading and watching.

Share your activity with your friends to Facebook's News Feed, Timeline and Ticker.

Stay in Control: Delete any item from your activity that you choose not to share.

MOST RECENT POSTS

BLOG ARCHIVES

Movies Without Pity

March 2014

16 ENTRIES

February 2014

22 ENTRIES

January 2014

21 ENTRIES

December 2013

25 ENTRIES

November 2013

21 ENTRIES

October 2013

26 ENTRIES

September 2013

16 ENTRIES

August 2013

22 ENTRIES

July 2013

22 ENTRIES

June 2013

21 ENTRIES

May 2013

22 ENTRIES

April 2013

19 ENTRIES

March 2013

28 ENTRIES

February 2013

16 ENTRIES

January 2013

16 ENTRIES

The Latest Activity On TwOP