The Best and Worst Movies of SXSW 2013

i-give-it-a-year

THE WORST

I Give It a Year
“It’s just like a Hugh Grant film!” exclaims a secondary character early in Dan Mazar’s rom-com, and we’re meant to chuckle at the divergence. The trouble is, the film hews far too closely to the Brit rom-com formula, seeming to think that a few narrative tweaks and a dash of gross-out humor will somehow distract from the fact that we’ve seen this predictable, vanilla effort many, many times before. Moments of wit are scattered here and there, but mostly via Stephen Merchant and Minnie Driver, who disappear for long stretches; the rest of the time we’ve got the kind of montage-heavy, brutally schematic junk food that’s at home at a multiplex, but not at a festival.

THE SOMEWHERE-IN-BETWEENS

Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine attempts to mash up art film ennui and mainstream genre trash, with mixed results. James Franco is (rather surprisingly) a comic dynamo, but the protagonists are barely distinguishable, and the messaging and subtext are, to put it mildly, on the incoherent side. Still, it’s got mood and memorable images to spare, and should continue to provoke some entertaining discussions.

Hey Bartender
This documentary valentine to “craft bartending” examines both the history of cocktail culture and the ins and outs of the job today, focusing on a handful of high-profile mixologists at bars across the country (but mostly in New York). It tells a good story and hones in on some interesting people, but these folks take themselves awfully seriously, and director Douglas Tirola seems to buy in (there’s only a fleeting moment’s acknowledgment that sometimes working in a bar is less about being an artist than it is about dealing with drunken assholes). Plenty to enjoy and learn here, but your enjoyment may depend somewhat on your ability to drink the (fresh-squeezed, jiggered, served over giant cut ice) Kool-Aid.