Tribeca 2009: Days Three and Four – Staying Cool as the Temps Rise in New York
by Annie Vinton
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I tell you, the ninety degree weather is not the only thing heating things up in Tribeca.
Over the last few days I’ve learned that buried under the glitz and glam of the Red Carpet, the real business of Tribeca is the hustle to ink deals for whatever someone’s next (or first) project may be. Most of us go to the movies for escapism – a break from life (or in some cases, to be informed) and don’t think much at all about the sometimes years of logistics behind bringing a 90 minute story to life on the big screen. These details and people who have shed blood, sweat and tears are sadly are an afterthought, names in closing credits when most people have already left the theater or shifted attention to their mobile devices. When a new film’s set to premier, lead actors, if possessing enough cache and fan appeal, are relegated to talk the talk show circuit arranged by a master publicis and so, while I love escaping into a dark theater for 90+ minutes to watch the story unfold, it’s the “psyche” of the film - the producing, directing, cinematography – that garners far more curiosity in me and luckily Tribeca’s been offering me a balance of both.
I’ll keep sweating here in record New York City temps (but, hey, I’m not complaining!) to bring you the latest and greatest as I hear it and as promised below is my review of Stay Cool and there will be much more to come. I’m just starting to master the delicate balance of screenings, interviews and writing and it’s no small task, proving to be a marathon that’s keeping me busy from dawn until dark!
A self proclaimed high school nerd Henry McCarthy (Michael Polish) returns home after 20 years as a published author in search of words for a speech meant to in inspire graduates at his alma mater. It’s as if time stood still, right down to him having to squeeze into parts of his wardrobe from the 80’s he finds in his closet after a lost luggage incident. He finds not much has changed inside the home where he was raised and immediately reconnects with his two best friends from high school well played by the barely recognizable Sean Astin and Josh Holloway, whose appearances resemble that of town gestures. They encourage/force him to call his high school crush (Winona Ryder), the local pharmacist stuck in a moment, still dating her high school sweetheart who’s in a state of arrested development continuing his jock glory days by way of coaching at the high school. The plot takes some twists and turns including the adult male fantasy of being seduced by a young, blonde, beautiful high school senior (Hilary Duff) and will keep you guessing if Henry can pull off a satisfactory and inspiring commencement speech that feeds the mind of the students and pass the approval of the school’s repressed staff.
The Polish Brothers deliver a fresh and funny interpretation of the wayward son returning home and capture the perfect repertoire of over-the top humor blended with existentialist ponderings of life, love, friendship and family. Michael Polish carries the film with the poise of an experienced actor alongside legendary talents like Chevy Chase who gives us a performance reminiscent of the high school principal from The Breakfast Club, only with more subtle ridiculousness. Sean Astin and Josh Hollaway’s comedic performances are spot on as the loser sidekick friends with ideals and wardrobes still stuck in the 80’s, and their characters remind us of the strong bonds of friendships that ensue over years now matter what journeys we take away from home.
You’ll appreciate the quirkiness of the film along with the outlandish situations and moments that will tug at your heart and inspire you to return home, whip out your Wham album and tear through your yearbook for a trip down memory lane.
This period piece set in the 80’s in a small New England town depicts the domino affect in pre-pubescent Billy Conway’s (Harrison Gilbertson) life as one tragedy seems to beget another with the most pivotal involving a car accident which leaves one of his siblings severely brain damaged and another dead. The strain of the accident leaves the family in ruins, with each of the parent’s grief manifesting in different ways. Billy’s mom (Geena Davis) is so guilty that the only emotion she feels comfortable exercising is anger through vulgar and inappropriate commentary and Billy’s dad (Joel Tobeck) shields himself from the pain by running away and establishing himself as a patriarch in a “picture perfect” family. Billy, along with his brother whom he despises, Larry (Harry cook) are left to their own devices and coping mechanisms that lead to destructive behavior and consequences. Not all is lost as the family naviagtes through their grief, proving that it is always darkest before the dawn.
Screenwriter Brian Carbee teams up with Australian director Andrew Lancaster in creating these complex characters and they’re brought to life by the impressive supporting Australian cast, led by the only American in the film, Geena Davis. There are biting moments of dark humor tossed in throughout the story, but overall your heart will ache as you find yourself yearning for all of them to find the strength to settle their internal conflicts and find a way out of their chaotic lives.
Annie Vinton Annie Vinton is a freelance writer and film critic living in NYC. You can read more about her and her writing at www.runavrun.blogspot.com or on Facebook.
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