I recently had the pleasure of watching one of those "hidden gems" that pop up a handful of times each year. These gems are the types of films that may not have garnered what they deserve from the publicity machine. They are typically independently produced titles or foreign art-house features that go unnoticed by the masses.
"Four Dead Batteries" is a low-budget comedic gem, shot on what feels like digital video, with a cast whose faces you probably won't recognize, but that generates more laughs than 95% of the blockbuster comedies churned out by major studios each year.
It is essentially a four-character film, although there are a ton of great supporting roles too. The four leads comprise the members of a struggling improvised stand-up-comedy quartet.
The fours guys are all approaching that dreaded "middle-age" realization that their lives are not quite what they'd envisioned. The girls in their lives are either too plenty, too few or too familiar.
It sounds like material more suited to Paul Thomas Anderson or Neil LaBute, but first-time writer/director Hiram Martinez is able to infuse this film with so many hilarious scenes and truly acerbic and witty dialog about the nature of these relationships that you will find it hard to stop giggling from credits to credits.
There are at least a half dozen scenes that had me rolling. The most notable of which involves the neurotic guy of the bunch commenting on a series of looks shared between himself, his girlfriend and a young stud who has him flustered with jealousy.
The cast is very good, although noticeably inexperienced with the subtlety of film in some scenes. There are a few instances of overacting. The film also attempts to cram in so much that it occasionally stumbles into an unfunny line or scene. But that is scant criticism in what is essentially an indie-triumph. This is one of the two or three funniest films of the year.
The girlfriend/wife roles are all filled with delightful turns. The most notable of which comes from Alison Becker who delivers a really interesting character... perhaps the one character who deserved more screen time than she actually had. Becker is a star in the making. The camera loves her.
The four leads are Patrick Dall'Occhio, Benjamin Travers, Rob Webber & Dave Zubradt. Dall'Occhio has similar qualities to Vince Vaughn. Rob Webber may be the funniest of the bunch. His character reminded me of Woody Allen's zaniest roles. Webber and Zubradt both balance the film with an everyman quality and each have their moments of hilarity.
Overall, I could not have asked for more from this film. The characters were believable and sincere, and yet still had that successful slapstick element that drove the film to its heights.
"Four Dead Batteries" is not a film you are likely to see playing on 3000 cinema screens... You may not even find it on the top shelf of your local DVD store. But you should make an effort to seek it out of you enjoy relationship comedy at its finest. This is a found gem.
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