December 20, 2014

Tribeca Festival films to look out for

Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help families choose what to watch. This week, our critic looks at highlights of the recent Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan where independent filmmakers revealed new movies for 2012. Take a look.

Of the many delights served on the movie menu at the Tribeca Film Festival are seven films that deserve to be seen by a wide audience. Look out for these movies.

Resolution — For anyone who has tried to help someone make positive changes, this intriguing drama reminds us what can go wrong. Not only does the friend resist the help, the place he lives is filled with mysterious happenings that make the intervention more complicated than intended. Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead reach beyond the potential predictability of the set up to explore layers of lifetime friendship.

Cheerful Weather for a Wedding — Featuring the delightful Elizabeth McGovern as an overbearing mother of the bride — and a fresh screenplay by Donald Rice and Mary Henely Magill — this comedy of manners recreates the early 1930s when English country houses were grand, romance was routine and happy endings were expected. Serving broad characters dressed in lavish costumes, director Rice also surprises with well-developed characters that reach beneath the crisp British surface.

Fairhaven — Writer-director Tom O’Brien creates a sensitive study of a young man who wants to break away from the predictable path he could easily take. In a small town — where time stands still and few options exist — this man gives up his day job on the waterfront to pursue his dream to be a writer. Thanks to his work with a therapist, and a developing relationship with a supportive woman, he learns that he can be more than what small-town life may dictate. 

Free Samples — With a script of surprising humor and depth, and a passionate leading performance from Jess Exler, this quirky comedy about a day in a young woman’s life stretches the boundaries of realism just far enough to be delightful. Exler plays a law school drop-out who can’t seem to find her rhythm in life until she agrees to fill in for her friend at an ice cream truck. Look for the lovely Tippi Hedren in a delightful supporting turn as a former actress who pays a visit.

Graceland — This relentless thriller from the Philippines recreates a parent’s nightmare. A devoted driver to a corrupt politician must find a way to save himself and his daughter when she is mistakenly spared in a botched kidnapping attempt. By focusing on the characters, and exploring their anguish, director/writer Ron Morales turns what could be a routine thriller into a compelling examination of parental greed. How far would any of us go to save our child?

Francophrenia — Without the necessity of a standard plot, nor characters developed in traditional ways, this surprisingly fun film explores the public hysteria and private persona of actor James Franco. In what could have been a major cinema ego trip, Franco portrays various dimensions of what could be him in an exaggerated look at his appearance on General Hospital a few years ago. While the tone of the film loses steam in its final act, Franco and his fans have a lot of fun.

Replicas — Director Jeremy Power Regimbal reminds us that, at the movies, good things rarely happen to people who live in remote houses with lots of windows. This marvelous popcorn movie offers a thrill a minute as a young family contends with its internal grief over the recent death of a young daughter and the external threat from neighbors who are a bit too friendly for everyone’s good. Regimbal wrings every chill out of a strong screenplay by Josh Close.

Congratulations to the organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival for offering independent filmmakers such an important platform to show their work. This year’s festival included 89 features and 60 short films from 46 countries. For more information, go to www.tribecafilm.com.