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Tribeca: On Distribution Anxiety and Stag Getaways

Tribeca coverage continues with Nathaniel on "Loitering With Intent" and "The Bachelor Weekend".

The way I see it, distributors pick up movies for one or more of four reasons, all of which are market driven. 1) The Shop-worn Genre. There's a reason so many low budget horror movies are made each year - the audience is faithful. There are virtually no other genres with audiences that loyal but faith-based movies are making a case for themselves right about now. Variations on this include any recognizable type, though: the murder mystery, the buddy comedy, sci-fi, etcetera 2) The Name Factor. If you can pin your marketing on recognizable faces or names in front of or behind the camera, you have a decent shot at getting media attention and then, goes the thinking, selling tickets. 3) Marketing Hook, Easily Identifiable. This is where  "high concept," the term being popularized in the 80s for movies you can sum up in one sentence, comes in. 4) Passionate Advocacy / Prestige. This one is harder to see coming but sometimes deep pocketed distributors do pick up films just because they love them and want them seen. Although even this passion is suspect because oft times the goal isn't wholly altruistic but part of the whole "prestige/awards" marketing hook and resume dreams.

But, real talk: The bulk of festival movies will never spend much time, if any, in regular movie theaters...

One of our favorite actresses, Marisa Tomei, blesses another indie with her charm

And sometimes the Tribeca Film Festival in particular (which loads up on name actors --- and any "name" will do) feels like a Straight-To-DVD festival. I do not say this to slam the movies so much as point out that quality is always a crapshoot and there's a reason some films don't win distribution beyond tough competition in the market place. But take all of that with a grain of salt if you wish. I do not speak from experience but from observation, cheering the industry on or giving it the execution style thumbs down from the box seats in the Colisseum.

I have this 'why do films win distribution or not?' conversation with myself at every festival and now I'm sharing it with you primarily because I'm uncertain as to what audience the next two pictures are going for, though they are in their own intermittent ways, amiable sits. 

The Bachelor Weekend
This Irish comedy is about a unusually reluctant groom Fionnan (Hugh O'Conor). He isn't reluctant for the standard reasons. In fact, he's obsessed with his impending marriage - the planning of it especially; Fionnan is a straight set designer and very much in love with his fiancee. Instead he's reluctant to do any stereotypically manly pre-marital duties like male bonding or having a bachelor party (which is, in the context of the film referred to almost exclusively as "the stag" - perhaps the title was changed for US sensibilities?). His closest and probably only male friends are  brothers to him. There's his actual brother Little Kevin (Michael Legge), Kevin's boyfriend Big Kevin (Andrew Bennett) and Fionnan's two best friends Davin and Simon (Andrew Scott and Brian Gleeson). When the Bride-to-be forces the stag weekend upon her man, she saddles him with her brother "The Machine" (Peter McDonald, wisely underplaying a nearly impossible role) who is like a walking cartoon amalgam of man's man stereotypes.

The movie has a lot of jokes about masculinity and Fionnan's lack thereof (the now verboten "metrosexual" term is nearly tossed out once, but swallowed halfway through for a laugh) and magically they're never mean-spirited. But it's more of a smiling comedy than a guffaw-party, all told. The Bachelor Weekend strains for laughs, most notably in an elaborate sitcommy sequence lacking much in the way of interior or costuming logic when the men all end up naked and lost in the woods (somehow they've recycled their socks as bit-protecting undies, but they're also still wearing their socks so...). The movie survives on the backs of some affecting ensemble work once the actors have exhausted their exasperation faces and succumbed to The Machine's will.  It all leads to the kind of happy and warm lessons learned ending that makes you want to like the movie way more than you really do; I'd be happy to oblige if only the jokes were funnier!  C+

Ivan Martin and Michael Godere in "Loitering With Intent"

Loitering With Intent
This meandering ensemble dramedy from the talented playwright Adam Rapp (yes, he's Rent's Anthony Rapp's brother) is also warmly sympathetic to its characters who are also rapidly approaching nuptials (or not) and middle age. The movie follows two failed actors, Dominic (Michael Godere, very handsome but slightly impenetrable) and his charismatic loser best friend Raphael (Ivan Martin) through an impulsive writing retreat. Through a chance meeting with an industry friend (Natasha Lyonne) they realize they could sell a screenplay right then... if only they had one written. They head to the country home of Dom's sister Gigi for peace and quiet and begin to map out what sounds like an incomprehensible noir. Naturally the peace and quiet they were expecting doesn't last long. The home is quickly filled with visitors raging from Gigi (Marisa Tomei) to her sometime employee (Aya Cash), her troubled boyfriend (Sam Rockwell) and her future brother-in-law (Brian Gerarghty). The movie is awash in insider jokes about New York's entertainment industry as well as a cute though probably extremely limited appeal tendency to quote and reference other movies and movie tropes without context or warning (Godere does a pretty decent Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie imitation).

The movie has a lot of trouble settling down into a relatable story from its hodgepodge of writing montages and character beats but when it actually lands on interesting moments, they're scattered in unlikely places. Individual scenes are sometimes played beautifully (naturally Rockwell and Tomei shine brightest) while others are clunkier sells (Brian Geraghty overplays his comic scenes in the cartoon role of a surfer whose just nabbed a reality show but he improves immeasurably when he has to share the frame with screen brother Rockwell)\ but nearly all of its parts have a tenuous relationship to the larger picture. Loitering is an apt title. This is an aimless mess about lost creatives, but it's a likeable one. C+

Either of these movies would work much better as TV series where ensemble likeability can go a long way in covering up other flaws like a weak grasp of plotting, liberally slathered on theme, a story that doesn't really "pop" and the inability to focus. I mean this in the nicest possible way. Many fine TV shows are built entirely around strong situational laughs / tears and generally appealing characterizations but rarely do those attributes alone make for great stand-alone movies. 

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Reader Comments (2)

My ears perk up for any new Marisa Tomei role. If this sees release we'll see her twice this year, I think, with Love Is Strange.

April 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

and she's really good in both movies. (no surprise)

April 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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