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Reviews for October 11th, 2013

Forgetting the Girl

Directed by Nate Taylor

      Kevin Wolfe (Christopher Denham), a headshot photographer who shoots women at his New York City studio, has yet to overcome a drowning accident that left his sister dead when he was a child. He desperately asks every woman that he photographs out on a date, and the vast majority of them reject him. Even those whom he does date end up breaking up with him and he soon forgets about them before moving on to his next prospect. His assistant, Jamie (Lindsay Beamish), has a secret crush on him, but he doesn't even realize it. One of the girls he photographs, Adrienne (Anna Camp), actually asks him out first, and he agrees, of course, but when he tries to kiss her the next morning after the one-night-stand, she doesn't let him. He doesn't quite understand why she rejects him all of a sudden. Does the plot sound like your typical romantic drama of a lonely man desperate to find the girl of his dreams? If that's what you think, then think again because Forgetting the Girl takes a few unexpected turns into dark territory as it progresses. None of those susprises will be spoiled here, though.

      Director Nate Taylor and screenwriter Peter Moore Smith have woven a seemingly simply story about a lonely man who has serious issues with women and turned it into something complex, dark and twisted. It's the kind of movie that you'll want to rewatch just so that you can see the first thirty minutes or so from a difference persective once you've learned about the dark twists in the third act. Smith uses a gimmicky, somewhat pretentious and lazy plot device that does get tiresome because he overuses it: he has Kevin talking to directly the camera while explaining a slideshow of his women to you, the audience. That breaking of the 4th wall is effective the first time around, but that effectiveness dissipates by the 2nd and 3rd time as it takes you out of the film's dramatic and emotional momentum.

      Fortunately, the aforementioned gimmicky plot device isn't a systemic problem with Forgetting the Girl; it's systematic and minor. Among the film's many assets is director Nate Taylor's well-edited cinematography, the cleverly integrated plot twists, and the memorable performance by Christopher Denham who handles the creepiness and sweetness of his lead role of Kevin with ease---sometimes Kevin comes across as sweet and creepy concurrently. Casting directors Ann Goulder, Gayle Keller and Anne Teutschel should be commended for selecting Denham because he has just the right look and talents required for the role. The screenplay might not be filled with profound insights or generate much in terms of poignancy, but Denham's performance compensates for the script's emotional deficiencies. You might not like Kevin or relate to him, but you'll most likely feel sorry for him and wish that he would seek some much-needed psychotherapy.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by RAM Releasing.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Documentary Round-Up

      The Institute is a doc about the Jejune Institute, an underground organization that involved its members in elaborate alternate reality games throughout the city of San Francisco/ The institute's games included scavenger hunts, puzzles and more. In 2008, Octavio Coleman, Esq founded it and to this day it still remains a mystery as to what it fundamentally represents unless you've actually experienced it before it closed down in 2011. The Jejune Institute isn't a cult per se, yet it seems like one based on the way the interviews with the members explain it. Perhaps it's more like Scientology. Director Spencer McCall doesn't reach any solid conclusions about the institute nor does he give you any convincing answers for that matter, but he does, at first, pique your curiosity and make you wonder whether or not The Institute is a real documentary or, as Christopher Guest would put it, merely a "documentary." It could have been a lot more illuminating with sharper interviews and more investigations about the institute itself. Apart from being slickly edited and initially intriguing, The Institute lacks something that's a requirement for the vast majority of documentaries: revealing insights about its subject matter. At a running time of 1 hour and 31 minutes, it opens via Argo Pictures at Cinema Village. At the IFC Center, Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird opens through 6th Avenue Productions. Unlike the doc reviewed above, this one does leave you feeling intellectually rewarded by the time the end credits role because you learn a lot about Gahan Wilson in only 85 minutes. Director Steven-Charles Jaffe provides you with information about Gahan Wilson's life as well as his rise-to-fame as a cartoonist who inspired many brilliant minds of today including Guillermo del Toro. His cartoons were dark, funny and twisted with more attention to detail on the evil characters, i.e. monsters, in his cartoons than the good ones. Jaffe wisely explores a very loaded and interesting question: Where does Gahan Wilson's darkness come from? The interviews with Wilson himself make for very illuminating, intimate and witty doc that humanizes this amazingly talented artist. You also learn, among other facts, how he met his wife, novelist Nancy Winters, how hard it was for her to find a smart man in America, and how to correctly pronounce his first name (no, that won't be spoiled here!). Concurrently, though, the doc doesn't go overboard with its praise or human elements, and it doesn't feel dry or boring, even for those previously unfamiliar with Wilson. Interviews with those whom he inspired, i.e. del Toro, Lewis Black, Stephen Colbert and more, are woven in quite smoothly with the well-chosen musical score and help to further enrich your understanding of what makes Wilson so iconic. Those feats are a testament to the skills of the director as well as his collaboration with editor Mindy Elliott.

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