The life crisis narrative, in which the regular guy is lost and finds his way, is nearly as overworked in indie circles. But these films found fresh angles and real insights.
Folk Hero & Funny Guy
Two old pals – one (Alex Karpovsky) a struggling stand-up, one (Wyatt Russell) a big-deal folk rocker – hit the road for some “intimate” club dates, looking for creative jolts and good times. Nothing that happens is all that surprising, particularly after they meet up with an attractive young singer (Meredith Hagner) and invite her along, but no worries; writer/director Jeff Grace’s comedy/drama is lifted by the likability and charisma of his leads and the gentleness of his charming screenplay. Karpovsky really gets this guy, his insecurities and the way his fix is just barely out of his reach, and Russell easily wears the crown of a guy who’s been king so long, he’s forgotten it’s there. And then Melanie Lynskey shows up, doing that thing where she makes every movie better. Grace overplays his hand occasionally (particularly regarding the stand-up act) and his montages become a bit of a crutch. But this is a delicate, easy-going charmer.
An office drone’s flat but stable existence is thrown into uproar by the unexpected appearance of a wild-eyed college buddy, who invites him to the title event, a kind of spiritual retreat… or something. Your enjoyment for writer/director Karl Mueller’s black comedy will vary wildly based on how much you’ll let a movie fuck with you – he tells the entire story through his protagonist’s eyes, and through the uncertainty of his experience. Mueller tilts between menace and satire, often when you least expect it, and ends up with something like a chaotic nightmare by the journey’s end. It’s nutty and intriguing, if occasionally exhausting; it’s neither easily summarized nor described, and perhaps that’s the best thing about it.