Diana reporting on a thematic trend at Tribeca
Relationships end. Goodbyes, no matter how “amiable,” are awkward and feelings are hurt or mangled. We have all been there and survived. Like the worst of hangovers, there are still no sure-fire recovery cures and you’re frequently left with a ringing noise in your ears, whether it’s nagging self-doubts or ongoing pangs of heartache. Some turn to binges and purges (booze, food, etc.), others break out the self-help books and get a new haircut, and a very small few release public statements involving a new buzz phrase (looking at you, Gwyneth). At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, many films tackled the issue head-on and their protagonists dealt with heartbreak to varying degrees of success, involving alcohol, rebounds, and even some zombie beavers (and we’re not talking about undead sex lives).
four movies after the jump
In Alex of Venice (which Glenn reviewed), an environmental lawyer (a superb Mary Elizabeth Winstead) struggles to balance her demanding work load and home life. Luckily, Alex has a supportive partner (a Cali-scraggly-haired Chris Messina) who manages the housework (school lunches, her father’s pill schedule, etc.). Not-so-luckily, he’s had enough of being the househusband and leaves, citing how his artistic hopes had been thrown to the wayside in favor of her career. Incredulous, she asks “Who’s going to cook the steaks?” proving his point exactly.
Left with a dysfunctional household (including Don Johnson as her pot-smoking, oft-forgetful actor father) and a looming important court case (she’s trying to save the environment, people!), Alex finds inner strength and empowerment, through the help of a snazzy borrowed “bleep-me” dress, a work-related romance, and ruminating long takes. With characters strolling through Venice streets and a folky score, Alex of Venice ends on the notion that though things inevitably must change, you can take some comfort in the fact that the overall picture remains. Alex’s husband left her, but she still has the love of her family, a meaningful job and the promise of tomorrow.
In Goodbye To All That, fun-loving Otto (Paul Schneider, who won Tribeca’s Best Actor award for the role) winds up in the hospital after an off-roading accident. While still limping, his wife (Melanie Lynskey) takes him to therapy of a different sort and blindsides him with her intention to divorce him, with the therapist nodding along. Per her instruction, he moves out of the family home, away from their young daughter (Audrey P. Scott), and into a new pad. Wracking his brain as to what could have gone wrong (beyond his general immaturity), Otto winds up on facebook and uncovers a few not-so-kosher messages from his about-to-be-ex wife, complaining to friends and flirting (and more) with other men.
Taking his new bachelor status on with aplomb, Otto hits up the wonders of the worldwide web and racks up a few dates. Wasting little time, he has sex with at least three very different women: a forthright businesswoman divorcee (a brief and blunt Heather Graham), a casual twentysomething with a millennial flair for dirty talk (Ashley Hinshaw), and a bipolar, dildo-wielding churchgoer (a typecast Anna Camp). After screwing his way to recovery, Otto rekindles with a former flame (Heather Lawless), reconciles with his creeped-out daughter, and finds presumed peace.
In Ne Me Quitte Pas, friends Bob and Marcel fall deeper and deeper into depression in rural Belgium. The heartbreaking, beautifully-shot documentary opens with the Waiting for Godot line, “It is not everyday that we are needed.” Within moments, we find out that Marcel’s wife believes Marcel is not needed most days. While his wife is leaving him, Marcel scrambles for reconciliation, even trying for a one-off farewell hookup, but to no avail. Left bereft and miserable, Marcel enlists Bob to help him make the house child-friendly for future family visits after his wife left it in a stripped, desolate mess, and to drink the pain away.
As his loneliness weighs on him, Marcel turns to drink all the more to cope. Whereas Bob can handle a fifth of rum a day, Marcel struggles, developing an alcohol problem on his own. Trying to be proactive, Marcel participates in a stringent rehab program, but to little avail. Nurses and supplements can’t cure the pang in his stomach every time he has to say goodbye to his children and see them drive off with his ex and her current partner. As the credits roll, you are left haunted by Marcel’s emptiness and reflecting on your own mortal coil.
In Zombeavers, cute blonde Jenn (Lexi Atkins) just broke up with her cheating boyfriend (she has a picture on her phone to prove it!) and needs some time away from it all. Taking up a friend’s invitation for a girls-only vacay, Jenn joins peppy Mary (Rachel Melvin) and snarky Zoe (Courtney Palm) on a trip to Mary’s family’s lake house out in the boonies. Stumbling on an odd-looking, drizzled-in-green beaver dam, the bikini-clad girls really want to see real-life beavers. Cue the Grizzly Adams-like hunter emerging from the woods, who warns them to cover up and to stay away from the beavers.
After night falls, the girls are still creeped out and become even more spooked by a strange thumping through the old house. Luckily (or unluckily), their college beaus turn up. Mary and Zoe pair off with their respective boyfriends (Jake Weary and Peter Gilroy), making their way to their rooms for shenanigans and leaving Jenn glaring at her ex (Hutch Dano), fending off his unwanted advances. As horror strikes, the two never quite reconcile, but we do get to see six teens fend off waste-infected, zombie beavers (a.k.a. zombeavers) and meet grotesque, untimely ends.
Whether you’re alone or with friends, young or middle-aged, real, fictional or in a B-horror, breakups suck. The “moral” out of these four Tribeca films is to go out and live, not to wallow in the inevitable heartache. Post-breakup, Alex and Otto went out of their comfort zones, rediscovering themselves and finding new lives along the way, while Marcel and Jenn stewed in their miseries and ended up all the worse for it. (Which would you rather tackle -- debilitating alcoholism or ravenous zombeavers?) Or to put it very simply, love and lose, but love again. So take off those sweatpants, put on those stilettos, and go seize the day, or your breath-takingly gorgeous and/or charismatic crush.