The Best and Worst Movies of the Tribeca Film Festival

Capsule reviews of 20 narrative highlights and lowlights, including "Rock’n Roll," "The Lovers," and "Abundant Acreage Available."

DARK COMEDIES
Some subject matter is just a little too offbeat for mainstream movies – thank goodness.

Take Me

Last week’s unexpected death of Jonathan Demme rang particularly loud as I was taking in this brisk black comedy from director/star Pat Healy, as it seems so clearly drawn from Demme’s Something Wild – particularly in its capability for wild story turns and tonal shifts, and willingness to tap into some real darkness. Healy is aces as the owner (and sole employee) of Kidnap Solutions LLC, which creates the “simulated experience of a high-stakes abduction”; Taylor Schilling goes for the gusto as his client/victim, who turns the whole enterprise into a neat game of who’s-conning-who. The broad opening scenes make it seem like a lighter movie than it is; hang in there, because it’s a ride.

My Friend Dahmer

“No, really, Jeffrey Dahmer was kinda funny” is an odd pitch for a movie, to be sure (or for the autobiographical graphic novel it’s based on), but this is a surprisingly effective movie – a ‘70s period piece (reveling in the wood-paneling aesthetic) in which young, lonely “Jeff” becomes a kind of absurdist mascot for a group of almost-friends in high school. But there’s always sadness to him, a sense of solitude, even when he’s around other people, and star Ross Lynch is unnervingly convincing in portraying how that isolation turned deadly. Writer/director Marc Meyers, like graphic novelist John Backderf, doesn’t try to do anything as impossible as “explain” Dahmer, but the film puts his ingredients together like a recipe: Social awkwardness, familiar discord, repressed sexuality, and mental illness. It works both as drama and postmortem, and never tilts towards one at the expense of the other. I’m still not quite sure how they made this work – but they did.