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Reviews for August 14th, 2019

Documentary Round-Up

      Los Reyes is an unconventional and thoroughly captivating doc about two stray dogs, Football and Chola, who live in a skatepark known as Los Reyes in Santiago, Chile. Co-directors Bettina Perut and Ivan Osnovikoff use a fly-on-the-wall style that requires a lot of patience because it's a slow burn, but your patience will be rewarded because Football and Chola are both endearing as is the dynamics of their relationships. They spend their daytime hours either resting in the shade or picking up garbage like plastic bottles or playing with their favorite toy, a tennis ball. They drink from a sprinkler that's turned on in the morning. How they manage to find enough foot to survive is a whole other matter that's left to your imagination. Occassionally, you get to hear conversations between a young group of friends who arrive to skate, but, the focus remains on the stray dogs for the most part. You feel like you're there with them every minute. There are even close-ups of their nostrils and bugs on their skin; some of those images are grotesque, but such is life. As the film progresses, there's an anthropomorphic quality to Football and Chola. There are even a few brief moments of comic relief. Los Reyes does get a bit darker toward the end without dwelling on those darker elements too much. Dog lovers, rejoice! Los Reyes is an unflinching, beautifully shot and engrossing documentary about man's best friend. It opens at Film Forum via Grasshopper Film.


Directed by Rhys Ernst

      During the summer of 2006, high school student Adam Freeman (Nicholas Alexander) decides to spend his vacation visiting his older sister, Casey (Margaret Qualley), in New York City where she shares an apartment with Ethan (Leo Sheng) and June (Chloe Levine) Adam meets Casey's LGBTQ friends and goes to LGBTQ bars with her. At one of the bars, he flirts with Gillian (Bobbi Salvor Menuez), and he lies to her about his age. He doesn't correct her when she assumes that he's trans, but after telling her the truth about his age, he continues pretending to be trans while dating her.

      Adam is tender, funny and refreshingly un-Hollywood coming-of-age film. The screenplay by Ariel Schrag treats its characters as human beings, flaws and all. The premise could have easily been turned into a screwball comedy of errors with a less serious screenplay. However, Schrag keeps the film as well as Adam's conflict grounded in realism that makes for a very compelling character study similar to what Marianne Heller did to Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Both films are set in New York City, deal with a central character who's a liar, but show that there's more to the character than meets the eye. Adam has likable and unlikable qualities which makes him all the more true-to-life. He lies to Gillian, but he's not a malignant narcissist nor a creep. He's warm, insecure, compassionate person. Unlike Lee Israel, though, he shows signs of remorse for his lie. Nicholas Alexander's breakthrough performance helps to bring the character of Adam to life even further. He's a charismatic actor and natural talent who will hopefully get more complex roles like this one.

      Even though Adam works as a character study, it's also quite funny and witty at times with a final line in the last last that ends the film on a high note and also leaves audiences with a metaphor. The relationships between that Adam has with the other characters feel genuine without any contrivances, especially between him and Gillian. There's nothing "Hollywood" about the third act which aims for realism instead without tying everything in a neat little bow. Schrag and director Rhys Ernst also avoid schaltz and melodrama. Each character seems lived-in and the dialogue sounds natural rather than stilted. It's wonderful to hear dialogue that doesn't resort to non-stop profanities as a means of entertaining the audience. Adam isn't as thoroughly unflinching as a Larry Clark film, but its emotions feel palpably real.

      Just the fact that Schrag blends drama and comedy so smoothly without any clunkiness is a testament to his skills as a writer and, above all, a humanist who understand human nature and how human beings talk. There's a beautifully written scene with Adam in bed with Gillian which goes from poignant to laugh-out-loud funny and back to poignant again sans whiplash because the screenplay doesn't take a particular sight gag too far. The brief reference to a cult classics of LGBTQ cinema, i.e. The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, via a movie poster is very fitting because Adam holds a candle to that memorable film, among others, like Parting Glances.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Wolfe Releasing.
Opens at IFC Center.

Angry Birds 2

Directed by Thurop Van Orman


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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