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2019 Tribeca Film Festival (April 24th - May 5th)

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Top Narratives

      Come to Daddy, directed by Ant Timpson with a screenplay by Toby Harvard, is a wickedly funny, campy and surprisingly heartfelt amalgam of horror, comedy, mystery, thriller and drama. Norval (Elijah Wood) receives a letter from his estranged father to visit him at his isolated seaside cabin. The less you know about what transpires afterwards, the better because this is the kind of film that takes many unpredictable twists and turns. The comedy ranges from dark to outrageous and deadpan, so it's definitely not for everyone. Timpson and Harvard take risks that pay off, for the most part, with a third act that's over-the-top and, much like Us, it leaves many questions unanswered, but at least it doesn't bombard you with sociopolitical messages. The filmmakers also have a very strong handle on exposition without relying on flashbacks or lengthy, contrived speeches like the one at the end of Us. In other words, it's better than Us. Part of the fun of watching Come to Daddy is that you're confused about what's going on and why, but it will all makes a little bit more sense by the time the end credits roll. It deserves to become a cult classic. If you're looking for more conventional dramedy, there's Standing Up Falling Down about Scott (Ben Schwartz), a stand-up comedian who goes back to live with his parents on Long Island after failing to launch his career in Los Angeles. Scott's father, Gary (Kevin Dunn), isn't a very good parent because he doesn't encourage his son to pursue his dreams and often puts him down as though he were an extension of himself. At a pub, he meets and befriends Marty (Billy Chrystal), a dermatologist who battled alcoholism, lost his wife, and remains estranged from his son. Scott still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Becky (Eloise Mumford), who's in a stale marriage. Grace Gummer plays Scott's sister. The screenplay by Peter Hoare works effectively as a drama, comedy with a bit of romance because it remains grounded in realism despite a few minor contrivances, i.e. when Scott and Marty smoke weed together. Their friendship isn't quite as profound nor haunting as Harold and Maude's friendship, but they're both cut from the same cloth as Harold and Maude. Marty becomes a surrogate father for Scott just like Maude became a surrogate mother; conversely, Scott becomes a surrogate some for Marty as Harold was a surrogate son for Maude. Although Standing Up, Falling Down bites off more than it could chew with many subplots that are tied rather neatly by the end, it's nonetheless a warm, honest, funny and wise story about two people from different generations who come of age in their own ways. It's also the best Billy Crystal film in quite some time. In Charlie Says, Kerlene Faith (Merritt Wever), a graduate student teaching a course about rehabilitation, accepts an offer to visit a prison to try to rehabilitate Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendon) , three women who are convicted of murdering people with the infamous Charles Manson (Matt Smith). The women recall how they ended up part of Charles Manson's cult and how they committed the heinous crimes. Charlie Says jumps back and forth between the present day rehabilitation program at the prison and the flashbacks to the women's dark past. Director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner should be commended for showing the women's experiences with Manson unflinchingly. This is definitely not a movie for those of you with a weak stomach. However, Turner's screenplay fails at getting inside any of the characters' heads to flesh them out as complex human beings. Each of imprisoned women remains unlikable from beginning to end without much in terms of nuance or depth. There's plenty of physical grit, but not nearly enough emotional or psychological grit to be found here, so the plot quickly becomes by-the-numbers with characters who never come to life. Even the notorious Charles Manson is far from an intriguing character. Part of what makes Manson such a dull character in Charlie Says has to do with the poorly cast Matt Smith who never quite sinks his teeth into the role convincingly. The underrated Merritt Wever who was the only bright spot of Welcome to Marwen gives a solid performance, but she's not given enough material to truly shine. The actresses who play the murderers give mediocre performances at best. Moreover, Harron and the editor, Andrew Hafitz, include awkward transitions between the past and present scenes, and some scenes last a little too long and, therefore, become tedious. Ultimately, Charlie Says is a mildly engaging, but underwhelming and emotionally hollow crime drama that lacks depth and intrigue. It opens May 10th, 2019 at IFC Center via IFC Films. W

Top Documentaries

      Studio 54, Interview with Ryan White, director of Ask Dr. Ruth

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