2015 Tribeca Film Festival After-Action ReportPosted: April 27, 2015
As of yesterday, the 15th Tribeca Film Festival has gone, and with it a solid collection of movies of all shapes and sizes. This year I was lucky enough to catch some of the films myself, and had a great time with my choices. I passed over some of the most exciting options (Slow West, Maggie, Good Kill) because they come out in theaters next month, and a few other options (The Wolfpack, Mojave) sold out before I could get tickets. Even so, I still found my way to a few great movies, all of which were good and all of which I would recommend once they get released.
Live From New York!: The opening night feature of the festival, Live From New York! was a frothy, fun and New-York-y way to kick things off. Admittedly not the most incisive or challenging documentary, it is nevertheless a ton of fun and very stylish besides. The film smartly doesn’t just limit itself to talking to Lorne Michaels or the cast, but also uses known news personalities like Tom Brokaw and Bill O’Reilly to provide an additional context to the cultural impact of the show over the years. It touches on the beginning of the show, Michaels’ departure, the rebirth in the late ‘80s, 9/11, presidential campaign comedy, and Lonely Island. The narrative is aided by some nice stylistic flourishes, particularly the opening montage set to “The Revolution Won’t Be Televised”. While the movie usually skews towards “fluff piece” territory, it does raise the questions of racism and sexism at the show over the years, and while it doesn’t really condemn Michaels or anyone else it does give various personalities the chance to provide their perspective on the issue. Ultimately, Live From New York! plays as a great mix tape of SNL and the people who make it, and reminds you of SNL’s impact and importance on pop culture and the world around it.
The Overnight: This film is funny, no doubt about it, and while that humor certainly skews towards stereotypical “indie comedy” sensibilities it is well-handled, and the cast hits those beats easily (as you’d expect from the likes of Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman; Judith Godreche also makes a great impression here as well). However, the real defining element of the movie is how oppressively uncomfortable it is, in a way that is both effective but sometimes almost stifling depending on what you expect from the film. Besides, it’s also a very bittersweet movie, one that throws out a bunch of questions and considerations about sexuality, monogamy and intimacy and then just leaves it all hanging, expecting the audience to come to their own conclusions. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and it’s the real benefit of being an indie film that there was no expectation for the film to wrap everything up with a nice bow by the finale. However it is the sort of comedy experience that, while engaging and effective, does not demand repeat viewings and full enjoyment the same way other films might. But, The Overnight does get points for being challenging in its way, and for perfectly executing what it set out to do, even if what it does isn’t as much for me.
Sleeping With Other People: This was absolutely my favorite film at the festival, and one I already can’t wait to revisit once it gets a regular theatrical release. Described by the director as “When Harry Met Sally for assholes”, Sleeping With Other People does indeed build on those now-classic rom-com archetypes and structures but approaches them with a much heavier and dramatic tone. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of fun and great jokes to be had, but the jokey option is never taken when a more real and emotional choice can be made instead. It’s a very careful high-wire act to attempt, but it is accomplished quite well here, and the result is a story that can be funny, harsh, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. The highs are often accompanied with lots of humor and insanity, and the lows are heavy and tough to watch, all of it unified by an honest exploration of the characters that have been crafted here. That being said, it’s maybe not as amazing as it could have been: the perspective of the movie tends to drift towards Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and his friends as opposed to Lainey (Alison Brie) and hers. And while Lainey herself still gets plenty of great moments and depth, we do get a criminal lack of Natasha Lyonne as a result, and the third act is dominated by Jake. Even with those small concerns, it’s a very good and very honest take on rom-coms, and one that could very easily grow on me more and more.
And with that, we bid a fond farewell to the Tribeca Film Festival, just in time to kick off the summer 2015 blockbuster season! Keep an eye on this blog and you’ll get some input from me on the beginning of the Geekpocalypse any day now.