BLOW THE MAN DOWN (2020)

March 20, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Who better to sing the title song than Gloucester, Massachusetts singer David Coffin … while wearing the attire of the local fishermen of fictional Easter Cove, Maine? Mr. Coffin’s rich vocals (and face) pop up periodically throughout the film and provide an unusual bit of story structure to the feature film debut of co-writers and co-directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. It’s a nifty little indie film that’s fun to watch, despite some gaps in the storytelling that keep it from ‘what could have been.’

Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor star as the Connolly sisters, Priscilla and Mary Beth. Their mother Mary Margaret Connolly has just died, and it appears they may lose their family home as well as the family business – a local fish market. Priscilla is the reserved, level-headed one, while Mary Beth (who put off college for a year) is impulsive and reactionary. A poor decision made while drinking with bad boy Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) leads to a violent confrontation involving a harpoon, a brick and cole slaw. Well, technically the cole slaw comes in during the clean-up being orchestrated by Priscilla.

There are some Coen Brothers and neo-noir elements at play here, which, along with the intriguing small town characters keeps us connected to the story and wondering how things will end up. An interesting twist has Easter Cove with a Matriarchal town structure, one of which the recently deceased Mary Margaret Connolly was instrumental. Three elderly ladies played with glee by June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, and Annette O’Toole take it upon themselves to continue the behind-the-scenes power brokering, while at the same time ‘cleaning up’ the town a bit. After the murder of a local prostitute, the triumvirate of senior women confront Enid Nora Devlin (yet another scene-stealing turn from Margot Martindale), who runs Ocean View B&B, the town’s brothel. Enid listens to their request to shutter the doors … or at least transition into a traditional bed and breakfast.

A found bag of money plays a role, as does Priscilla’s carving knife, and Alexis (Gayle Rankin), a friend of the murdered girl. Will Brittain plays Officer Justin Brennan, a young policeman who fancies Priscilla and is committed to solving the crime(s). All of these interactions are quite something to watch, as most every character has their own secrets and motivations. As mentioned, the story structure may remind some of Coen Brothers projects, however as fun as it is to watch, it’s lacking the sharp and witty dialogue of the Coens. Also, while many of us enjoy movies that don’t fill in every detail, there are gaps crucial to understanding the actions of these characters … gaps that probably should have been colored in a bit more.

Harpswell, Maine poses as Easter Cove, and there is something about this small fishing community on the northeast coast that creates a unique and appealing setting for a movie. Additionally, the dialect and personalities make for entertaining cinema. It’s a nice first feature for Ms. Cole and Ms. Krudy and we look forward to more of their work.

*available on AMAZON PRIME

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SLOW LEARNERS (2015)

August 19, 2015

slow learners Greetings again from the darkness. One of the staples of Romantic Comedies is that the two key players are the only ones who don’t realize they are “right” for each other. This is often accomplished through one of two methods: either two characters who “despise” each other, or as characters who are “just good friends”. This little film manages to blend those two approaches … and make us laugh in the process.

The first 15 or 20 minutes of the film are packed with very sharp comedy writing and acting. Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”) plays Jeff, and Sarah Burns (“Enlightened”) plays Anne. These two misfit adults get along very well together both as co-workers and friends who quote literature at (not to) each other. Anne’s opening visit to the doctor (played by Peter Grosz of Sonic ad fame) is outright hilarious, while Adam’s book club features some real zingers from Bobby Moynihan, Gil Ozeri, and Reid Scott (“Veep”).

It’s not until Jeff and Anne make a pact to change their public personas in an effort to be “cool” and more attractive to the opposite sex that the film takes kind of a nasty – well at least unlikable – turn. Becoming alcoholic d-bags does help them experience a summer of wild escapades, but predictably, neither is especially happy. Anne picks up pointers from some trashy reality TV show called “Prisoners of Love” … a knock-off of “The Bachelor” that deals with convicts and the women who would love them.

Adding to the comedic elements are quick scenes with Cecily Strong, Catherine Reitman (daughter of Ivan) and Kate Flannery, along with a couple of sequences with Jeff’s parents (Kevin Dunn, Marceline Hugot). More interactions with the parents would have been a welcome respite from the extended d-baggery of Jeff and Anne.

Mr. Pally is a master of the deadpan delivery, while Ms. Burns can best be described as a Kristen Wiig starter kit (that’s a compliment). Co-directors Don Argott and Sheena Joyce, and co-writers Matt Serword and Peter Swords lost sight of what delivered such a strong beginning for the film, and instead focused on reminding us to “embrace the darkness” and to “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”. Good lessons indeed, but maybe not the comedy gold mine that was expected.

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