Saturday, June 13, 2009

WATERFRONT FILM FEST REVIEW: Peter and Vandy...



There are very few negatives when going to a film festival.

You are not only introduced to new and interesting films, actors, and film makers, but the atmosphere breeds entertainment. However, when a film is not good, it hits especially hard. That was not a problem for Peter and Vandy though, as the film is not only great, but could very well be one of the 10 best films so far this year.

Peter and Vandy is a film that features an interesting premise. The story is told in a set of flashbacks/forwards, however, it's not disjointed as you may think. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end (sort of), that is set in Manhattan. It tells the story of Peter, a neurotic 20 something who apologizes a bit to much, and who happens to meet Vandy, a beautiful young woman with a penchant for art. The film goes from the beginning of the relationship to where it is in the present, and every twisted point during their relationship. I enjoyed almost every second of it.

This film would fall flat, as most romance dramas do, if the cast were to be weak. However, this film excels, mainly because the leads are stellar. The film stars Jason Ritter (who may be most famous for his role in Joan of Arcadia) and while his performance does come off a bit one note, at least near the middle of the film, he does take a turn, and the way he is able to emote with his face really brings a depth and emotion to his otherwise sweet, but one note, character. Also, he takes a turn as the relationship grows, that is not only realistic (which I will talk more about in a minute), but really brings the viewer back into not only his character, but their relationship.

His love interest is the up and coming actress Jess Weixler, who after her turn in the indie cult horror film, Teeth, has her up on my list of "actress to look out for". This has her even higher on the list. Like her counterpart, the best scenes involve the camera lingering on her face, allowing her to move the story along with the emotional arch without exposition, something not many films attempt to do. As with her previous film, Teeth, she is able to use her face to do so many things for the film, that it really makes the film all the more enjoyable. She's got great comedic timing, and probably the most important aspect of a relationship film is the chemistry between the two main leads, and this film has that, in spades.

That may be the true star of this film. The film may have flaws (it lags a bit in the middle, the pacing is weird, and the opening 10 minutes feature some of the most awkward and awful acting this year), but what makes the film so great, and something you should see, is the relationship between the two. These two people's relationship is so real and easily relateable, that everyone knows what these people are going through. The film is basically a drama that ponders the question, "how did we get like this?" The film follows the two leads through ups, downs, ups, and then more downs, and every moment in between, all of which are wrought with so much truth and earnestness, that it really had me laughing, and near tears in some of the more emotional moments.

There is one scene in particular, that really worked for me. It is a simplistic scene, simply a discussion between two people about their relationship. Peter is discussing how he isn't happy in the relationship, and the way that he is able to bring so much truth and heart to the scene, along with Weixler bringing such earnestness to the role as a woman who has put as much into a relationship as anyone could. The way that that scene is not only played but also edited really left me with a pit in my gut, and was the shining scene in a film chock full of them. It's a discussion between two people who truly care for each other, and would do anything for each other, discussing how their relationship can or can't work. It's just a look at the most important and distinct moments in the discussion, and in a film full of the poignant moments in a relationship, that along with the editing, it really stuck with me.

The film also adds to this feeling with the look. Writer/director Jay DiPietro is a first time director, but the film doesn't fit that bill. It's not a big budget film, but the independent feel gives it it's own distinct style. There aren't any flashy tracking shots, or dramatic dolly shots, but it does allow the story and actors to breathe, and become more fleshed out instead of simply being characters. The film is more cinematic than a documentary, but in the vein of the upcoming Paper Heart, it has much more of a documentary feel (with flashy editing), than a truly cinematic styles.

Sure, the film has some flaws. The main point that this film fails in is its pacing. While the moments in the film are interesting and very engaging, the editing and the timing of these scenes doesn't allow for maximum enjoyment. You have the beginning of the film being awfully awkward, and while it's understandable, it to to high of a degree, and the performances in these scenes are not good at all. Then you have the film ramping up, and then beginning to hit some mud near the middle. The film is still enjoyable, but its not nearly as strong of a film in these moments. They are more the exception than the rule for this film, but it does effect it as a whole.

However, this is truly a must see film. It's something that EVERYBODY can relate to, and is one that, unless you have NEVER been in a relationship, will leave you feeling a cornucopia of emotion. You'll be happy one moment, than near tears the next, as this is not only a great film, but easily one of the most real films of this year, so far. Just go see this movie already!

PETER AND VANDY - 8.5/10

Go see something good!

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