SIFF2013-TheSpectacularNow

SIFF 2013: Week Two Highlights

The Spectacular Now

A twisty political thriller, a surprisingly good high-school movie, and a shockingly bad David Sedaris adaptation are among SIFF's highlights and lowlights in week two (May 24-30).

DON'T MISS:

Camion
Camion{screens May 29 at 6:30pm and May 30 at 4:30pm at the Uptown}
A truck driver nearing retirement age gets in a head-on collision on the job, and his two sons come home (somewhere in rural French Canadia) to help him out of the ensuing funk. The story then takes an interesting detour into childhood-regression territory, focusing on the brothers: one's a funny fuckup who looks kinda like Dave Grohl and the other is a straighter-lacer who looks like I dunno who but definitely not Dave Grohl. Despite any casting questions or POV unevenness, this is a beautifully-crafted film with a gorgeous ending.

Paradise trilogy: Love, Faith, Hope
{screening back-to-back May 25 beginning at 10am at Pacific Place}
A captivating series of films focusing on three women as they confront themselves and search for some version of happiness. Love travels with full-figured, fiftysomething hausfrau Teresa as she becomes a "Sugar Mama" sex tourist in Kenya; in Faith we get to know Teresa's sister, a fanatic Catholic missionary whose summer is disrupted by the sudden return of her paraplegic Muslim husband; then there's Teresa's sullen 13-year-old daughter Melanie, making unexpected new friendships at a fat camp and flirting with a much older camp doctor, in Hope. All three feature intriguing photography (director Ulrich Seidl has a fondness for static symmetrical shots, mainly of characters in small rooms) and audacious, often ruthless storytelling (he also has a fondness for challenging the viewer to look directly at unpleasantness). Paradise is well worth your while.

Redemption Street
{screens May 27 at 8:30pm and May 28 at 4:30pm at the Uptown}
Handsomely constructed Serbian thriller about an eager young lawyer who is unexpectedly assigned a top-secret investigation into Serbia's war crimes commission; he naively rattles too many skeletons from that closet, exposing his family to danger (and uncovering a very pat, plot-serving coincidence in the process). Enjoyment doesn't rely on the viewer's familiarity with Serbia's conflicts or political situation — they're just the MacGuffins around which this film's shifty narrative is twisted.

The Spectacular Now
{screens May 24 at 7:15pm at the Uptown and May 25 at 1:30pm at the Harvard Exit}
The first half of this adaptation of a popular novel is a naturalistic and very watchable high-school flick about an imminent townie / potential waste of space named Sutter, whose antics pave the way for a meet-cute with fellow senior Aimee. She, being smarter and wiser and generally better than he, nudges him into a key life confrontation in a nearby town; a door opens (literally) and out of a sad bachelor pad stumbles another, deeper, even better movie. Trust me and see it.

TAKE OR LEAVE:

Ernest & Celestine
Ernest & Celestine{screens  May 24 at 6:30pm at the Egyptian}
Animation fans and folks with kids should be all over this adorable fable about an unlikely friendship between a French bear and mouse. The hand-drawn animation over watercolor backgrounds make for gorgeously (deceptively) simple visuals. And while Ernest & Celestine doesn't quite achieve the resonance of, say, A Cat in Paris, it's a hell of a lot better than most Hollywood cartoonery these days.

SKIP:

C.O.G.
C.O.G.{screens May 24 at 4pm and May 26 at 7pm at the Egyptian, and May 27 at 6pm at the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center}
David Sedaris's work — especially his work from Naked — deserves much better than this unpleasantly joyless mess. You remember the essay — religious fundamentalism, Oregon-shaped jade clocks, the biggest dildo collection ever. Great piece, glum adaptation. Corey Stoll (hotness from House of Cards) and Denis O'Hare (True Blood's Russell Edgington) bring things up a notch, but not enough to save what originated as a vibrant and thoughtful piece of personal history-comedy from becoming the complete downer of a film it's been contorted into here.

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