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Clunky at times but mostly a charming little lo-fi indie piece that works for what it is
Micah and Jo' wake up next to one another after an one-night-stand at a drunken party. Slipping away they awkwardly go their separate ways, but Micah sees her later to return her wallet. They spend the remainder of that day together, biking and walking around San Francisco and chatting generally as they go. This is about the size of the plot and those looking for more of a definite narrative should probably be warned that this is very much a niche indie film that will appeal chiefly to those that like the film almost before they have seen it. I'm not sure if I fall into that category as an older casual viewer but then I did make a certain amount of effort to get hold of the film so I suppose I did have a vested interest to like it. And mostly I did like it: mostly.
The low-key indie feel of the whole film will feel pretentious to some I'm sure but for me it had a certain lo-fi charm that came from the project as a whole. Although the path of the two characters didn't really strike me as realistic or convincing, the charm with which it was delivered helped me to put this out of my mind for the most part. This allowed me to hang out with them as they bumble around the city together in a way that will be recognisable to anyone who has done the same in any major city. In this regard I really liked the film and I enjoyed the "coolness" of it and I didn't care too much that "nothing was happening" in a traditional sense.
This makes for a very slight film and it needed to have a conclusion that fits that which it sort of does, the problem is more what it includes in the final third. We suddenly have discussions over race that feel clunky compared to the majority of the scenes that had gone before; this made it a little grating and didn't fit with the rest of the film. Of course this does fit well when compared to the sudden introducing of a meeting of random people discussing gentrification in San Francisco, this doesn't fit at all and indeed this sudden introduction of social commentary just clunks onto the screen without any real context or relevance, giving the impression that the film wants to have this aspect but wasn't able or willing to make it part of the whole film, but rather just one scene.
The charm of it is key though and the casting was very important in making this work. Finding Wyatt Cenac in the lead was a surprise and perhaps a bit of a worry since I generally find him to be the least able of those on the Daily Show; I like him but his performances on that show are never as good as John Olivier, Larry Wilmore or some of the stronger ones. Here though he is awkwardly charming in a weird geeky way. He does walk a fine line because at times he could have been irritating but he keeps it on the right side of the line. He is helped a lot by his chemistry with Heggins. She is wonderfully awkward and cute; OK she never got her character's motivations through to me but I still really took to her and to both of them together.
Medicine for Melancholy is a very slight film though and it is not something to come to with high expectations. Rather the indie design and delivery is something that charms those that left it, thanks to the work by maker Jenkins and also the chemistry of the lead two. The attempts to have some form of commentary or meaning in it really clunk towards the end but ultimately, while not great, it is a lo-fi indie pleasure.
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