LAFF: Day One Wrap-Up
Today was the first full day of the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival, and c, vt was on location to check out what was playing. Drop by over the next week and we’ll have continuing coverage of the various films playing the festival, as well as any special events we make it to. Day one brings a nice mix of films, as we caught Argentina’s A Week Alone (Una Semana Solos), France’s Stella, and the U.S.’s Humpday. Check out our mini-reviews below!
A Week Alone (Una Semana Solos)
Dir: Celina Murges
Cast: Magdalenta Capobianco, Eleonora Capobianco, Ignacio Giménez
Remaining LAFF Showtimes: Sunday, June 21st 7:00 PM at the Landmark
Logline: Left to their own devices for a week in their gated community, a group of privileged kids occupy themselves with swimming, vandalism and chocolate milk in this keenly observed portrait of teenage yearnings and summertime revelries.
Review: A leisurely-paced film about idle childhood moments, Murges’ A Week Alone draws some truly impressive performances from its large cast of young actors and actresses. The strong, natural performances ground this film in startlingly authentic reality, but that also winds up as the film’s biggest weakness. Murges’ cinema veritae aspirations are well-intentioned, but result in a largely flat narrative experience. While the characters are engaging enough to hold our attention, the film doesn’t so much unspool as it meanders its way through its 110 minute running time. Events lose their luster and the relationships grow tiresome due to the plodding pace of the film, and the climax subsequently doesn’t carry any real weight or sense of significance. While certainly noble in its intention to capture the nuances of childhood experiences, the film ultimately leaves viewers scratching their heads and wondering “So what?”
Dir: Sylvie Verheyde
cast: Léora Barbara, Karole Rocher, Benjamin Biolay, Guillaume Depardieu
Remaining LAFF Showtimes: Sunday, June 21st 3:00 PM at the Billy Wilder Theater
Logline: Paris, 1977. 11-year-old Stella knows poker better than grammar when she starts the year at a prestigious new school. There, she discovers the possibilities of a whole new world outside her parents’ bar.
Review: An engaging portrait of a young girl’s formative years, Stella is an impressive film from writer-director Sylvie Verheyde. Based on Verheyde’s own life, the film offers an insightful and moving portrait of the tumultuous life of its protagonist, the titular Stella. Newcomer Léora Barbara does an absolutely stunning job, carrying the entire film on her slight shoulders with equal parts charm, innocence, and petulance. The world of the film, as seen through her eyes, is a wondrous kaleidoscope of strange new experiences, uncertainty and self-doubt, discovered moments of happiness, and anguish over situations she can’t control. Verheyde does a splendid job unraveling the story in an organic way while still adding ample amounts of drama. The tug-of-war between Stella’s unorthodox home life and regimented school experiences is a great dynamic. The only problem I had with this film is a slight lack of focus to the narrative, resulting in an at-times uneven pace. Still, the overall product is very strong, and a fascinating look at life for a little girl in Paris in 1977.
Dir: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore
Remaining LAFF Showtimes: Monday, June 22nd 4:45 PM at the Landmark
Logline: One drunken evening, two old buddies dare each other to have sex together for an art porn film in the most hilarious, awkward, and surprisingly authentic bromance of them all
Review: Humpday is a hilarious and brilliantly performed film that examines a semi-ridiculous, completely uncomfortable, and strangely humanizing topic: gay sex among straight men. Lynn Shelton puts together one hell of an indie flick, giving us a completely stripped-down film experience that is powered by the strength of the three main characters. Duplass, Leonard, and Delmore turn in great performances as Ben, Andrew, and Anna, crafting three utterly believable characters whose relationships take an unbelivable turn when Ben and Andrew drunkenly resolve to make an art porn film of them having sex. The problem? They’re both straight, and Ben’s married to Anna. The resulting hijinks are funny, sure, but the most impressive thing about this movie is that it takes the painfully moronic idea of two old friends and turns it into an engaging, convincing, and surprisingly thoughtful study of the relationships between the characters. I cannot stress enough how superb the acting is in this movie, as Shelton makes the smart choice to give us a no-frills movie that rides entirely on the charisma of its performances. Duplass, Leonard, and Delmore excel, and the result is a hilariously uncomfortable film that is an absolute pleasure to watch.