LAFF Day Six Wrap-Up, Part 2
Day six at the Los Angeles Film Festival was a good one! We caught a few flicks that were a nice change of pace from what we’ve seen the past few days. Check out what we thought about Wah Do Dem and Weather Girl (trailer here) below!
Wah Do Dem (What They Do)
Dir: Ben Chace & Sam Fleischner
Cast: Sean Bones, Norah Jones, Kevin Bewersdorf, Carl Bradshaw
Remaining LAFF Showings: N/A
Logline: Max (Sean Bones)’s girlfriend Willow (Norah Jones) dumps him days before their departure on a Carribean cruise. Unable to find a friend to come with him to experience the all-you-can-eat-buffet crowd, he goes it alone. A hipster in a strange land, Max can’t quite adjust to being out of his element until his playful lark evolves into an unexpected odyssey.
Review: Wah Do Dem is an unassuming picture about the ordinariness of an extraordinary experience, or the extraordinariness of an ordinary experience. It’s a kind of slice-of-life movie that explores a slice of life you would normally never see. The story follows Max, a young New York hipster who is dumped by his girlfriend just days before they are supposed to go on a crusie to Jamaica together. Unable to find a friend who can drop their responsiblities for a week to join him, and unwilling to give up the tickets he already has, he decides to go on the trip alone. Populated almost exclusively by geriatrics, the ship fails to offer him any solace or a cure for his loneliness. However, a spontaneous trip to a secluded beach once he reaches Jamiaca turns into an unexpectedly revitalizing journey when his personal belongings are stolen and his ship sails without him, forcing him to make a cross-country trek to the U.S. embassy in Kingston. The resulting trip is a modest and unpretentious experience, and directors Chace and Fleischner handle the material with an appropriately light touch.
The movie unfolds in a completely organic manner, and the naturalistic way it is shot further enforces the almost documentary-esque feel of the film. The difficulties of Max’s journey don’t feel overly construed, and Bones’ portrayal is an equal balance of frustration and fascination that anyone who has ever gotten lost in a foreign country can relate to. It sounds kind of odd to say, but the film’s greatest strength is its lack of ambition. It doesn’t purport to be a message movie, to hold some kind of deeper meaning, or to be anything more than a travel narrative that allows us some insight into another world. One interesting element, though, is that the movie was shot during the 2008 presidential election, and we see how Jamaica responds to the great sweeping sense of change that, despite stemming from an American event, became a distinctly global experience. However, even this aspect of the movie is unembellished, with the directors allowing it to become just another part of the scenery instead bloating it with some misguided sense of deeper significance. Chace and Fleischner allow the movie to play matter-of-factly, and we’re subsequently allowed to see the simple gravity and quiet power of everyday life in the situations Max finds himself in. His journey becomes so engrossing because we see how subtly it changes him, how small but vigorous of an impact it has on him, and us as an audience. This is a fine line to walk, though, and perhaps because of this Wah Do Dem becomes a film that is a pleasant lark, a perfectly fine jaunt that was good while it lasted, but doesn’t particularly compel you to call on it a second time. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, and anyone would do well to pay Wah Do Dem a mild but rewardingly transformative visit.
Dir: Blayne Weaver
Cast: Tricia O’Kelley, Patrick J. Adams, Ryan Devlin, Mark Harmon, Kaitlin Olson
Remaining LAFF Showings: Saturday, June 27th 4:30 PM at the Landmark
Logline: After she melts down on live television, a Seattle weather girl (O’Kelley) finds herself with no job, no boyfriend and no apartment. It could be the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
Review: Blayne Weaver’s Weather Girl is probably best described as (and simultaneously unfairly reduced to) a romantic comedy for the indie crowd. Weaver gives us a heartwarming tale that avoids the usual Hollywood clichés by providing us with a delightfully realistic portrait of…well, the usual Hollywood clichés — love, loss, happiness, and more. When thirty-five year-old “sassy weather girl” Sylvia has a meltdown on live television, eviscerating her lead anchor boyfriend for having an affair with his co-anchor behind her back, she gains a much-needed but only momentary sense of satisfaction while losing just about everything else — her job, her boyfriend, and her future. Forced to move in with her younger brother (Devlin), she sets out to piece her life back together. In the process, she finds love in an unexpected place and learns that she doesn’t have to settle for less than what she deserves.
Where Weather Girl succeeds most is in the way it takes the usual conventions and hijinks of a romantic comedy and presents them under a realistic and relatable context. Paired with winning performances from all three of the very charming leads, the result is a familiar but surprisingly fresh moviegoing experience. Sylvia’s breakdown and troubled attempts to get back on her feet are almost pathetic, but still completely understandable, and so she’s able to earn both sympathy and laughs from the audience. O’Kelley’s portrayal feels lived-in and deceptively nuanced, unearthing the anxieties of an aging woman who has suddenly lost everything she thought she would have already secured by her age while still showing the stubborness and confidence of a woman who can fend for herself. The chemisty between her, Adams, and Devlin is also extremely rich, and much of the film’s humor, warmth, and heart come from how genuine their relationships feel and how naturally they progress. Though the general structure of the film can be said to be formulaic, the strong performances and believably intelligent dialogue clad the movie in a distinctly original aura, and a very charismatic one at that. For once, the characters don’t speak in tired tropes but honestly and succinctly, their language only occasionally adorned by the coy circumlocutions you’d find in the everyday lexicon of people preparing to make speeches of the life-altering variety. It’s a romantic comedy, so of course there are going to be some slightly cheesy moments, but Weather Girl, to its infinite credit, handles those situations with a deft maturity that grounds them in reality. Anchored by the excellent performances and sharp script, Weather Girl takes what could have easily been a disposable (and probably more marketable) romantic comedy and turns it into a bewitching film that both the indie and mass audiences can enjoy.