Friday—The Dallas International Film Festival started with one opening film on Thursday but the first full day of films started today. As I drove over to the Magnolia Theater, there was a bit of trepidation on my insides. I detest going to the Magnolia, especially on the weekends. The sidewalks are filled with all the ‘beautiful people’—former college Greeks who think that the world revolves around their every breath. They crowd around the sidewalks like they own them and cackle like the crackles that live in the trees. But, like Artic explorers, sometimes we must fight the horrible elements to get to the goal.
The first film up was Cinema Six. The Texas made production is part of the Texas Competition. It is an independent style comedy in the vein of Clerks. The audience was full of family members and other filmmakers who were in competition with the film.
Mason, Dennis and Gabe all work at the Stanton Family Cinema. They have been shilling popcorn for longer than any of them care to remember. The film is an episodic work where the three overgrown boys must make decisions that should turn them into men. Mason is the leader of the group, a married man with a young child and another on the way. Dennis is trying to get over his breakup by hitting the bottle. Gabe dreams of getting away and going to film school. He has a major fear of talking to females.
There are some funny moments in Cinema Six and a few moments where it dragged along. Writer/directors Cole Selix and Mark Potts have crafted a film that definitely comes from being behind the counter. Much like the film Waiting, it is the kind of film where if you have worked in the industry, the film is a very ‘in the know’ kind of funny.
The film plays again at the Magnolia on Saturday April 14 at 2:15 PM
The second film of the night was Liberal Arts. It was the opening night film but I could not make it until now. The theater was packed, standing room only. There was a tremendous buzz on this motion picture. The film is part of the Premiere Series—films that have release dates and distribution deals.
The story was of Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor) a thirty-something who is getting over a bad break-up. He works with admissions for a New York university but is unfulfilled with his job. His college professor (Richard Jenkins) invites Jesse to come back to Ohio for the old man’s retirement dinner.
While soaking up all the nostalgia of being back on campus, he meets college sophomore Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a nineteen year-old free spirit. The two spend some time together and keep up a correspondence after he leaves. It becomes a May-December romance.
But the film is also about so much more. It is about contentment in life and how your job does not define your happiness. Yes, the centerpiece of the film is between Josh and Zibby but is also about making decisions and taking chances. Like the Richard Jenkins character says, “No body feels like an adult.”
This is one of the best films I have seen this year and one of the best films I have ever seen at a film festival. Director Josh Radnor has crafted a very honest and thoughtful cinematic essay on what it means to be going through middle life. A full review will come out closer to the actual opening date. The film will open nationwide in September.
Liberal Arts plays again on Friday, April 20 at 7 PM at the Angelika.