With the film festival in full throttle, the movies start to mix together. When one sees three films in a day, the details of one tend to seep into another. That is why film critics take note on each and every film. There is nothing like spending the entire day watching films at the Angelika.
Rushlights is the first film of the day, a movie which is part of the Texas Competition. The movie is slated with the note ‘based on true events’. I am always a bit skeptical when I see that disclaimer. So many films over the year have used that moniker just to lend an air of believability.
The story starts in California with Sarah (Haley Webb) meeting Billy (Josh Henderson). She is a bit of a broken young woman who has had a problem with addiction. Billy rescues Sarah from a drug/crime scene, accidentally taking the wrong bag in their haste. They discover that the drug overdosed girl has a giant estate in Texas she recently inherited from a distant uncle. Billy decides that they should go to this small West Texas town, pretending that Sarah is the dead girl.
Once they get into town, the two meet both the local sheriff (Beau Bridges) and the local lawyer (Aiden Quinn). The two are brothers and on different sides of the world in terms of believing that Sarah is the right woman. With a seven figure sum waiting in probate, others see ways to get part of the money. The film proves the old Biblical adage that the love of money is the root of all evil.
This is a fascinating film in the vein of a Blood Simple, the brilliant Coen Brothers debut. The look is nothing like a low-budget feature but a giant production with sure camera moves and a dusty, gritty reality. The cast of professional actors make the film feel much more like a major motion picture than a standard independent feature. Writer director Antoni Stutz has combined the classic noir with Texas pride in a film that deserves a major release.
There are other films opening this week and one has to see films that are not part of the DIFF. Disconnect was shown at the Angelika but not a part of the festival. There will be a separate review of the film at the end of the week.
Diving Normal had its world premiere late at night at the Angelika. The director, the makers and all the major cast members were in attendance. They had friends and family who had flown great distances just to make the screening.
The film is a romantic triangle. Dana (Susie Abromeit) is a former actress/model who works at a doctor’s office. She also has a substance abuse problem. Dana went to high school with Fulton (Phillippe Karner). He is a successful graphic novelist who is having a major book published. Fulton lives next door to Gordon (Scotty Crowe). Gordon is a slightly mentally challenged individual who works at the library. The story is how Fulton and Dana begin dating. Fulton falls for Dana and Gordon falls for Dana. The story is of how messy love can become with damaged people.
After the screening, the director and the actors took the stage to talk about their film. The two male actors Scotty Crowe and Phillippe Karner said they have been performing the play Diving Normal for about five years and were also producers on the cinematic production. According to director Kristjan Thor, the film took only 18 days to complete. He said that at such a fast pace, there was little time for re-shoots and multiple takes. Part of the film takes place at a public pool. According to Phillippe, they shot all the scenes in one night.
The film is a bit slow but shows how the tender seed of love is nourished and flowers into something unexpected and special.