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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Recent decades have seen an exponential increase in the number of
brother filmmaking teams: the Coens, the Wachowskis (well, not now
editor), the Zuckers, the Duplasses, the Hughes, the Russos, and the
brothers Farrelly and Polish. Now add to that list the Toronto
brothers, Matthew and Aaron. Their first full-length collaboration, The
Pact, written by both, directed by Matthew, and co-starring Aaron,
boasts an intriguing premise: two unlucky-in-love brothers swear an
oath to lay off women for a year: "No flirting, no racy
thoughts"they're to live like "monks." No sooner have they sealed the
promise in blood than their loyalties are testedGrant, the obsessive
monogamist, is instantly, and rather improbably, tempted by a series of
women, notably Charlie, a free-spirited massage therapist he meets in
the bar where the blood-oath was sworn. Meanwhile, brother Ancel, a
struggling musician recently dumped by his wife, makes abortive (and
disloyal-to-The Pact) efforts to hit on several women, including an
attempt to pay a prostitute for fellatio, which is foiled by a fire
alarm. Once the quasi-magic properties of The Pact are established, the
movie settles into a more familiar indie romcom mode, with occasional
back-forays into broad comedy. Charlie moves into Grant's apartment
building, where homeless Ancel is sponging on his brother, and becomes
the vertex of a bromantic triangle, while Jackie, the bartender who
witnessed the blood oath, pines for Grant, her secret crush, counting
the days until the year is up.
Though the resolution is fairly predictablein a good waythe movie manages to keep us guessing at various points, the pace rarely slackens, and the rivalry between the brothers feels grounded in something real. As Grant, the sentimental idealist, Neil Brookshire projects a likable Tom Everett Scott/Hamish Linklater vibe. In addition to supplying some lovely songs, (his musicianship gets better as the movie progresses, for reasons that weren't entirely clear to this reviewer), Aaron Toronto has several moments of genuine sweetness and pain. Nika Ericson is especially convincing as Charlie, the woman who latches on to the brothers and eventually comes between them, and Jordan Toronto, as Jackie the bartender, deftly allows us to guess at her true feelings for Grantin a way, she's the most affecting character in the piece. The dialogue is often very sharp, and the photography crisp and effective (if somewhat over-reliant on close-ups).
What's problematical here is the tone. For this reviewer, the best scenes are the casual domestic scenes, which for the most part are written, played, and directed realistically. The supernatural elements and the broad comedy are less successful. To some extent, this is the result of the script's failure to establish early enough the magic nature of The Pact, and the rules that govern it. When a series of women improbably throw themselves at Grant, we don't quite know how to take it, any more than we buy Charlie's and Jackie's descriptions of the Everyman-ish Grant as "yummy." As far as this reviewer could tell, Ancel's attempts to hit on women are never cited as violations of The Pactit seems to be enough that they fail. Ancel matures as a man and a musician, but as a result of what is not entirely clear, and his admission that he was responsible for his failed marriage comes out of the blue. But all's well that ends well, and given its obvious budget constraints (this is basically a two-location moviethe bar and Grant's apartment), The Pact holds its own in a crowded indie field.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Co-written by real-life brothers Matthew and Aaron Toronto, THE PACT is
a film about two fictional brothers, Grant and Ancel Fox, who swear off
women for a year after their respective relationships go sour. Grant is
the responsible 9 to 5er and Ancel, the between-gigs-musician who moves
in with his more responsible sibling.
Much of the action in this film takes place inside of local watering hole Jim's Tap, where Ancel often plays. When Ancel discovers his girlfriend cheated on him with a fellow band member, he's had enough. He drinks himself into a stupor, wrangles his brother Grant onto a tabletop and they make a pact: No women for a year. They seal their pact in blood and frame the blood-stained napkin on a wall of shame (or glory?). It's the kind of thing you can only get away with at a bar where you're a regular. After this quick set up, the movie is off and running.
The next day, on the first full day of the pact, Grant goes to work and all of a sudden women can't get enough of him. Grant's coworker, Joanne, shoots him an email confessing her love while peering over the shared wall of their cubicles. She even goes as far as to openly declare herself "a stalker." On the other hand, Ancel is already ready to break the pact once he's sobered up in the morning. He tries, but has terrible luck; As he's about to hook up with one woman in the bathroom, the fire alarm goes off.
One day, Grant runs into a cute new neighbor, Charlie. They meet at Jim's Tap and immediately hit it off. Charlie moves in for the kiss but Grant pulls back, beholden to the pact. As Grant tries to keep Charlie at an arm's length, counting down the days until the pact ends, Ancel also starts to take a liking to Charlie. The Fox brothers have a falling out and it appears that the pact has done more harm than good. In the end, though, Grant and Ancel learn that the pact wasn't really about women at all.
Jackie is particularly strong as bartender of Jim's tap, who sees Grant as the nice guy that he is, helping him stay true to the pact and himself. The film is quite funny and though limited in scale with only a few locations, makes good use of music to add to the atmosphere and comedy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Written by Matt and Aaron Toronto, The Pact is centered on two
brothers, Grant and Ancel. Grant, wallowing in despair at his favorite
bar, because his girlfriend dumped him, is shocked to see his brother
Ancel, also in a drunken stupor after his wife left him for one of his
band members. Furious and devastated, Ancel and Grant in the height of
their drunken state make a pact to swear off women for an entire year.
The aftermath of the pact had entirely different results for the two
brothers. Grant is surrounded by beautiful interested women, he even
has a stalker at work. While Ancel, desperate to break the pact, is
unable to consummate relations with any woman. Mysterious forces seem
to be hard at work to destroy Ancel's chances, while Grant would be on
top of the world had he not made this pact. Together they resist
temptation, and continue to abide by the pact until a beautiful woman
named Charlie causes trouble between the two. In the end they find that
the pact was so much more than about women, or love, it was about
helping each other and bonding as brothers.
I could not turn away from this charming sweet comedy about these bothers and their loss at love. The protagonists are lovable, and we desperately want these brothers to stay committed to each other and the pact. I can't emphasize enough how well written the story is. The director, Matt Toronto, did a magnificent job at focusing on the story. Utilizing all the elements at his disposal to tell a simple story well. The film is well acted, and the audience is fully engaged throughout the film.
Another element I noticed was the great use of a budget. Clearly a low budget film, the filmmakers did a phenomenal job at using the same locations, but never having a dull moment. They made sure not to become too repetitive, and have everything make sense with the story. Everything in this picture is structured exceedingly well.
Romantic comedies have taken a serious dive in the last decade, and that could simply be because we have run out of new ideas, or Hollywood stopped caring. What this film does exceptionally well is it made a genuine effort in persevering the quality of story, and strayed from anything over the top, crude, or trite. The twist in this story is that the protagonists focused on their "pact," meaning they focused on themselves, and what they needed to do in order to be happy and find love. They had a slew of external barriers they needed to get through in order to be happy. So much better than the onslaught of stale Gerard Butler, Katherine Heigl films we see nowadays that are lacking in terms of quality. If you are interested in a solid comedy that is delightfully pleasing, grab a few snacks, friends, and enjoy The Pact.
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