|Index||4 reviews in total|
There are many films, especially low-budget independent films, which
attract our attention during festivals, only to disappear afterwards
without ever being released in the theater or on DVD. A few, however,
that fly under the radar become sleeper hits, finding their audience
and remaining popular for years. Such indeed may be the case with the
charming Breakfast with Curtis. Written and directed by Laura Colella
and winner of the Best Narrative and Best Ensemble Cast Awards at the
Los Angeles Film Festival, Breakfast with Curtis is the story of a
young boy's "seminal" summer that reminds us that community or large
group support and interaction can often produce personal growth in a
quicker and more lasting way than spending years talking to a
The film is set in a suburban area outside of Providence, Rhode Island in the lazy summer months in a time not specified. 14-year-old Curtis (Jonah Parker) has no issues with the world in general. It's only other people that are the problem. To say he is introspective is like saying Don Corleone has a bunch of close friends. It's true but there's a lot more to the story. Curtis is so uncommunicative that he shuns school (is home-schooled), has no friends, and rarely even looks up when his parents talk to him.
Part of the reason he is so withdrawn is a traumatic incident that happened five years ago when next door neighbor Syd (Theo Green), a long-haired free spirit type who is an online bookseller, threatened to smash in his skull for throwing stuff at his cat. These terms of endearment did nothing to bring Curtis or his parents, dad Simon (David Parker) and mom Sylvie (Virginia Laffey) close to their neighbors and the hurt has been festering since then. The neighbors in this case are the communal-minded occupants of the three-story Victorian house next door to Curtis, known as the "Purple Citadel." They are, in fact, the director's actual friends and neighbors who have never acted before.
They include Syd's girlfriend, Pirate (Adele Parker) an artist who looks out for an older woman, Sadie (Yvonne Parker), who lives upstairs, Frenchy (Aaron Jungels) and Paola (Colella) who live on the third floor and spend a lot of time smoking pot and making love. In real life, they are teachers, artists, and software engineers. It's a fantasy, of course, but it would be nice if all of our neighbors could display such camaraderie and pleasure together, (without all the drinks and pot perhaps). The rapprochement with the neighbors starts taking shape when Syd, hearing that Curtis is good with computers, cautiously asks him to assist in a video project to further his online business, shooting tapes of Syd talking into the camera about himself and posting it on YouTube.
After much reluctance, Curtis agrees to help him and startling changes begin to take place in the young boy's life. Breakfast with Curtis has been called "unfocused," "amateurish," "plotless," "thin," and worse. It is probably all of the above (except for the "worse"), but what these critics leave out is that it is also a beautifully realized, touching, warm, funny, and downright lovely film and that Parker delivers the kind of commanding performance that only the best child actors can reach. Even grouches like myself will go home whistling.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The amazing thing about the new low-budget indie, 'Breakfast with
Curtis', is how director Laura Colella is able to extract some
exquisite performances from a completely amateur cast. What's more
amazing is that her actors consist of herself and her boyfriend, along
with all her neighbors in real life, that reside in two, three-story
turn of the century houses, in a suburb outside of Providence, Rhode
The inciting incident takes place five years prior to the main action of the story. The extremely introverted nine year old, Curtis, is chastised by neighbor Syd, for throwing rocks at his cat. Curtis' father, Simon, screams at Syd as he and his wife are eating a meal, lambasting him for threatening to crack his son's skull, which is obviously an inappropriate comment.
Fast forward to five years later. Curtis is now a very tall lad of fourteen years. The break into Act 2 occurs when Syd speaks to Curtis again through their adjoining yards, and offers him a job to create video blogs on Youtube, as an adjunct to his online publishing business. Curtis (who appears to be quite bright but is home-schooled due to his introversion), takes a while but finally agrees to Syd's proposal.
Theo Green as Syd steals the show as an aging hippie who shares a fount of stories with Curtis, who masterfully creates a series of recurring web episodes, which begin to garner a good number of Youtube Hits. Green reminds me of the irrepressible Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown from 'Back to the Future'. He's a natural actor who is completely convincing as a Bohemian from the 60s and 70s.
It's difficult to discern much of a plot here, but suffice it to say that by the end of the film, Curtis has come out of his shell, is now attending high school and interacting with kids of his own age. His father Simon, finally forgives Syd for the inappropriate outburst toward Curtis when he was nine, and joins all the neighbors in a sing-a-long on one of the front porches, revealing that he's actually a talented guitarist to boot.
Director Colella doesn't seem to know what to do with the supporting players, who are all quirky but undeveloped. We never do learn what, for example, Colella's character, Paola and her boyfriend, Frenchy, actually do, except smoke pot, and perhaps have threesomes, with a visiting female friend. One amusing scene involves all the female neighbors, who hold a giddy luncheon in the backyard. When Frenchy dresses up as one of the 'girls', they spend an uproarious afternoon with him, playing ping pong and generally reinforcing the already tight camaraderie amongst the neighbors. It's all fun stuff but no real sub-plots are generated (except perhaps for the unmasking of Simon, who is found to enjoy smoking marijuana with some of the neighbors).
There are very few directors who can also write strong scripts. In the case of Ms. Colella, her ear for dialogue is extraordinary. Developing a full-blown, compelling plot, is another thing entirely. Nonetheless, Ms. Colella's talent as a cinematographer, editor and director is undisputed (Check out the web episodes she creates for Curtis). I truly hope that the powers that be in Hollywood take notice of this gifted filmmaker who has proved she can create a dynamic, original film on such a shoestring budget!
When I decided to watch this on Netflix, I wasn't expecting much. I
even thought I'd likely not watch all of it. This is often the case
when I've never heard of a film or of any of the actors.
Well, I was very pleasantly surprised at how interesting every character was and how skillfully each actor portrayed his or her character.
Congratulations to the writer/director Laura Colella for creating such great characters and for her very fine direction. Everything was clear, understandable and completely believable. The casting was pretty much perfect, too - right down to the "look" of each actor.
Again, all the actors really did a stellar job, but I must give special mention to young Jonah Parker who gave a beautifully nuanced performance. I wish there was more info on him in his profile here, because he has now piqued my interest. If you're reading this, Jonah, I strongly encourage you to stick with acting! I will very much look forward to seeing you again and again in a variety of roles. I will remember your name and be watching for you!
I was surprised to see this currently only has a 6.7 rating. I gave it 8 out of 10 and am thinking, as I write this, it may really deserve a 9, for all the reasons mentioned above.
If you don't require special effects, sex, or violence in movies to enjoy them, I strongly encourage you to see this one.
This is a perfect example of a movie being good because of fortunate
fruition. Every piece was exactly as it needed to be to produce the
vibe it was going for (or maybe even not exactly going for).
The acting was great, even if not done by seasoned pros. If the writer/director did the casting, she either lucked out or had a fully realized vision of exactly what she wanted. The set, the cinematography, the atmosphere, every bit of it placed perfectly to maximize effect.
Also, there were no cheap gags for laughs, no gimmicks thrown in to force you to empathize with anyone. It was very genuine and honestly constructed. It's a solid indie movie. It was definitely not made for the sake of making a movie. It never tried too hard or not enough. Well done.
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