|Index||6 reviews in total|
I saw this film yesterday at a festival, and felt compelled to write a
review after seeing the HD trailer on youtube overtaken by trolls and
receiving some rather undeserving comments. So here's a short list of
what I made of it:
- solid acting/directing
- lilting, atmospheric and overall beautiful soundtrack
- most movie-goers may find the pacing a tad slow to the point of being boring; story is barely kept moving by events which do not culminate into anything huge or dramatic
Other notes (good or bad, these are probably a matter of personal taste):
- film permeated by a low-budget, moody, night-lit feel, a world of twilight hours and rain-streaked highways, drifters and vagabonds, stagnant coffee, greasy gasoline, and illicit love
-actors/actresses/director unfamiliar but good
- one could argue that the film is made up of a series of character vignettes; plot is entirely character-driven as opposed to story-driven
- characters are neither entirely sympathetic nor hateful; life for them simply seems seeped in a dull, sluggish immobility. Who they are and the lethargy of their lives mold the film and pacing throughout.
That's all I can think of for now.
To conclude, I personally didn't find the movie very depressing at all, even though the characters are all down-and-out types suffering from this-or-that problem, and the ending is actually a hopeful one. Overall I liked it. So for those with an open mind, or if you're into mood pieces, I would recommend this for you, and if you were unsure about watching this possibly after seeing nasty comments about it elsewhere, I hope my review will help you to make a more reasoned decision.
6.8 to 7.5-ish/10 for me.
The Off Hours (2010)
A lonely diner on some trucker route in the middle of nowhere. And so the employees as well as the passers-by are lonely, too.
This is a sad movie, but beautiful and felt. It's about several characters--truckers with families somewhere, an older employee who sells her body for the sake of a child far away--but it centers around Francine (brilliantly played by Amy Seimitz). Francine is a young night employee, and since the place is often empty she spends time with the occasional customer. We feel a weariness and toughness in the face of some lonely guys, and some lonely locals. Eventually she has to make a big decision based mostly on externals--not that she wants to, but that she must.
All of this is filmed with a slightly romanticized grittiness. It's made gorgeous and intriguing and not unfriendly, so you wish you could be there. The people have no glam, but they're real, and their concerns for each other penetrate the gloom. All of this makes the movie excellent, and I'd recommend it totally.
But you might eventually ask what the point of these intersecting lives is. Do we simply wallow in a kind of lost world where people are only sometimes happy but whose larger lives are mostly doomed to repeating dismay? Maybe. It's satisfying as a downer movie, but it's also about resilience and love. That's one redeeming aspect to life, as a whole, even when it's awful--there are sparks of true compassion, little gestures, larger attempts at warmth and even self-sacrifice.
That's ultimately what you'll get here--some very good people with very troubled situations. It doesn't matter what they do wrong. It's what they manage to do right that makes you feel for them, especially for Francine, who is a hard, soft, bright, sad, brilliant young woman to believe in.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With Megan Griffith, we have another debut director trying to make a
name for herself, toiling in the crowded field of indie 'field of
dreams'. Griffiths' protagonist is Francine (Amy Seimetz), a slightly
depressed waitress at an all-night truck stop diner, who dreams of
escaping her stifling, mundane world. Francine goes through the motions
by having occasional sexual encounters in the bathroom at the diner
with Ty, one of her foster brother Corey's band mates. Later Corey
makes a pitch to get intimate with his foster sister, but Francine will
have none of it. What she really wants is to get it on with Oliver, the
handsome, enigmatic trucker, who lives nearby, but won't reciprocate
because he's a happily married family man.
If the 'nothing happens' relationship between Francine and Oliver, isn't enough for you, then perhaps you'll find the subplot involving the diner's owner, Stu, more to your liking. Stu is an alcoholic, who wants to spend more quality time with his estranged teenage daughter but is stymied by his ex-wife who's lost faith in him. The big dramatic moment of the film comes when Stu allows his daughter to be the designated driver on their way home from a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The only problem is that the daughter has no driver's license and ends up hitting a guard rail, with Stu ending up in the hospital with a nasty concussion. Stu soon finds out that visitation rights with his daughter have been permanently terminated by the ex-wife, due to his remarkable, poor judgment.
As is the case in many indie dramas today, self-hating characters always seem to be popping up all over the place. It's my belief that the lower a character's self-esteem, the more pretentious the overall story will be. That's because losers (also known as 'sad sacks'), don't make for good drama. Stu is the perfect example of the downbeat loser, which make so many of these indies, hard to wade through. Francine isn't much better, with her sullen demeanor and lack of direction in life. While Stu is a cliché, Francine is simply too ordinary to be of interest. One hopes something unusual happens between Francine and the hunky trucker, but when that potential romance fizzles, the viewer invariably feels cheated. Even Francine's decision to leave small town life, disappoints, since again such a move feels undistinguished from a thousand other scenes, found in films of this ilk.
'The Off Hours' is on solid ground with uniformly good performances, despite the stodgy script. With better material, Amy Seimetz might end up as a true find. The same can be said for Gergana Mellin, who shines in the wholly underdeveloped part of Jelena, the randy Serbian waitress.
Ultimately, it's director Griffith, whose love for such generic material, must be held accountable. That's not to say that she doesn't have an eye for compelling visualssome have compared the look of the film to an 'Edward Hopper' painting. But when a film sinks like the Titanic, from the weight of egregious glacial pacing, one wonders why Ms. Griffith chose not to concentrate on the most fundamental aspect of basic film makingit's called editing!
I saw this soon after seeing "Think of Me", another film about someone living at the less hopeful fringes of American life, so it was kind of a one-two punch, morale wise. Norman Mailer portrayed this lower class, small town life beautifully if more dramatically in "The Executioner's Song", showing how Gary Gilmore was just the poison flower of a whole weed-riddled garden. Here we see a waitress whose main pleasure seems to be having impromptu sex in bathrooms, whose closest relationship is an ambivalent one with her foster "brother" (drifting along on unemployment). Others around her have lazy sex, drink, generally just get by. To the degree that there's an inciting incident here, it's when she meets a slightly older man with more substance to him. But the real "story" is just the close-up view of these small-town down-and-outers going nowhere. There's a general mild hopelessness to this whole world which is certainly that of millions of Americans living get-by lives. It's never very compelling, which may be the point. Still, if one stays interested in these characters from the start, it is because they all have something engaging about them, whether it's a Serbian mail-order bride (now widow) showing a gruff sisterly concern for her younger colleague, a father yearning to re-connect with his daughter or the protagonist trying to live a life that is just a touch more responsible than the aimless one she's living here. The actors all do their jobs very well and the moody, slightly sordid texture of the film is a fair approximation of the small-town, off-the-main-road, atmosphere I know from some years in Upstate New York. So the film probably does what it is aiming for and is a worthwhile document of a certain slice of American life. But very little really happens and when it does it is, without being predictable exactly, not unexpected.
The Off Hours was by far the best movie I've seen at the Seattle
International Film Festival. It is so powerful and moving. Breathtaking
scenery and a stunning cast paired with an amazing soundtrack. Life in
a dead end town, pure and simple.
The characters are so depressing in such a beautiful way. It's rare to go to a film that really changes the way you feel when you leave the theater. I left feeling the way every one of those characters felt, as if I was part of the film.
I would highly recommend it and see it again for sure.
I give it a 10 out of 10 easily.
Once again I find myself coming face to face with an Amy Seimetz performance, and once again she's pretty great. Her character is a bit different from what I've gotten sued to her playing, although just a bit and fans will love her and others who aren't fans of her past work won't. It's all very lived in, all very quietly nuanced but a lot will certainly not find anything to look at in there. However, she's quite the actress in my opinion, and I certainly look forward to more. The film is well developed throughout, with a lot of tendencies to truly structure itself properly and not come off half-baked or anything. It's not entirely original so in that way I think that sort of filmmaking was needed. Very nicely, gently shot with some reasonable color palettes. This is recommend.
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