I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to watching this indie. There have been a string of average to poor Reel 13 Indies for the past several weeks (nothing has been close to good since GEORGE WASHINGTON) and the trailer for CRY FUNNY HAPPY didn't look very appealing. I was braced for another clunker and wound up getting the most pleasant surprise Reel 13 Indies has offered me yet. In short, CRY FUNNY HAPPY blew me away.
It follows a group of college friends over a twenty-four period centered around the birthday party of their most outlandish (and somewhat self-destructive) friend, Wes (Michael Traynor). It has the preparation, the party and the heartbreaking aftermath. As contrived as that might seem on the page, writer/director Sam Naeve seems to know that when old friends, pent-up emotions and lots of alcohol are involved, emotional explosions like the one that this movie seems to count down to are not only plausible, but somewhat inevitable. Furthermore, the extreme rage that is necessary to make moments like that work can seem to fall flat in many indies, but here it is very well done raw and impactful without ever once seeming to hit a false note.
Of course, another prerequisite to achieving that kind of impact is strong performances. Stylistically, the film resembles the mumblecore movement in terms of its low res video, verite camera-work and potential allowance for improv. However, Sam Naeve avoids the mumblecore label by ignoring the weakest element of the movement using non-actors. It is clear that CRY FUNNY HAPPY boasts very talented, trained actors and it shows in every frame. If I were nitpicky (and I guess I am), I might suggest that the two other lead males (other than Wes) created characters that were almost too put-together, too well-adjusted for the world that Naeve has set up. However, that is counter-balanced by one particular performance that left me dumbstruck throughout the film. I kept thinking this is a young Frances McDormand at work and was looking forward to the closing credits to determine who this no name talent was, only to discover that she is a child of Hollywood royalty. Amy Redford, daughter of Robert, in the role of Ally, gives the kind of powerfully vulnerable performance that her father never even came close to in his illustrious leading man career. She is a wonder to behold.
It is not my intention to suggest that CRY FUNNY HAPPY is flawless. As I alluded to earlier, there are some moments that are contrived in an awkward way (Naima's storyline, for example) the out-of-focus opening is a little artsy for its own good and the sound quality is problematic at times. However, due to its style and attempts at emotional honesty, its flaws are as lovable as its strengths. I think this is so because the connection between the main characters is palpable you feel as if you are among them at this party and are involved in their little dramas that seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but still very real and reflective of our every day lives. CRY FUNNY HAPPY is one the happiest and strongest discoveries of Reel 13 Indies so far. It represents the kind of presentation that defines what I think the program should be all about.
(For more information on this or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website at www.reel13.org)
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this