Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tribeca Report No. 5

I love the Village East Cinema, where the bulk of the screenings are held; it’s an underrated theater, and it’s nice to see it getting some attention. The only trouble with the joint is that, in all but the main auditorium, the layout is such that the entry door is in front of the theater, right next to the screen. It’s a little distracting. I realize that different people attend festivals differently; a lot of these are press and industry screenings, and a lot of industry folks are coming and going freely, because it’s more important for them to see bits of everything than all of some things. But it’s a little unnerving; some of the more daring films have felt like they were having a lot of walkouts, even when they may not have been “walkouts.”

Most stayed put for the crowd-pleasing Meet Monica Velour; it’s a lightweight, enjoyable comedy with a career-best performance by Kim Cattrell. As a former porn star turned washed-up would-be stripper and single mom, she has a dignity and flashes of vulnerability that lend the characterization some real weight. It’s an enjoyable movie, if a bit on the safe side—it too frequently goes for the easy joke or plays for the easy pathos, sanding down a story that might have been more interesting with some rougher edges.

Mat Whitecross’s sex & drugs & rock & roll charges onto the screen like a runaway train, filling the screen with loud music and trick angles and zippy filmmaking, hoping to distract us from noticing that it’s yet another “rock star behaving badly” biopic. Director Whitecross orchestrates the picture’s tempo changes like a good rock album—it hits furious peaks, slows for the introspective ballads, veers off for a bit of comic vaudeville business. However, there are drawbacks to the film’s fast, free-for-all style, and the been-there-done-that nature of the second half is unavoidable. But it’s done with enough energy and pizzazz to spackle over at least some of the familiarity.

And finally we have the stark documentary Sons of Perdition, a profile of three teenage boys who are exiled from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the polygamist sect led by convicted rape accomplice Warren Jeffs. We see the three young men adjusting to the opening up of a whole world around them, all the while coping with the total estrangement from their families (and trying, with varying degrees of success, to help the family they left behind escape the sect). The trust that the directors earn over the two years of shooting results in an unguarded honesty from their subjects. That’s particularly true in the closing scenes, in which these under-educated but suddenly street-smart young men articulate their notions of family and what part religion can and should play in that family. In those moments, the picture really gets to you; it’s a strong and weighty film, potent and powerful.

Going for four tomorrow: the Irish comedy Zonad (from the folks who brought you Once), the political documentary Gerrymandering, Michael Winterbottom’s dark The Killer Inside Me (with Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, and Kate Hudson), and Melissa Leo in the 9/11-inspired drama The Space Between.

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