Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 7:00 pm 
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Location: California/NYC

Ordinary people

Adam Reid's Hello Lonesome (2010) is an American indie film and first feature about a trio of lonely-guy stories, all set in the NY Tri-State area and happening at about the same time, though not interconnected. There's a "voiceover" artist, who has been abandoned by his wife and does all his work at his rather posh, man-toy-rich home; an elderly woman, recently widowed, who pals up with a young male neighbor; and a young couple who meet via the Internet and hit it off. These are different kinds of loneliness, but all quite average.

I liked this little film, except for feeling jerked around by the vagaries of its multiple narrative. One writer described the narrative process as like a "lazy Susan": you keep getting shifted from one of the stories to another, for no discernible reason. Reid is not a snappy enough writer and editor to make the shifts telling or striking. But the stories are quite interesting and despite their average-ness, quite specific, showing an observer who is both clear-eyed and sympathetic. We see a lot of the voiceover guy (Harry Chase, an actual voice artist). It takes a while to become acquainted with all his "stuff": his little recording studio, his trampoline, the way he likes to shoot at things in the woods with his rifle and play with other gadgets in the house. We see him at work, and his phone messages left for his daughter show that's a relationship gone bad that haunts him. We find out that he traps a deliveryman he knows (Kamel Boutros), and makes him stay for a visit. And then he has a date, which we don't see as much of. The quirky old lady (Lynn Cohen) seems tossed in more just for spice. She washes and polishes her vintage car, and then goes for a bold, triumphant ride in it that leads to her losing her license: she can't see well enough to drive any more. This leads her to call upon the dry young man next door (James Urbaniak) to take her to buy groceries, and this in turn leads to fixing him dinner, and more, though it all seems rather tentative, and that's why it works for the young man. Nate Smith has some kind of a good, if not yet high level, IT job, but he's unattached. He's a young guy (and not odd like James Urbaniak's character).

It's only gradually that a complication develops that undermines the keen, dry observation of the film, when the young woman Smith's character meets online, and then calls, and then dates (Sabrina Lloyd), turns out to have a grave illness she can't bear to tell him about at first. This becomes the most serious of the episodes and also the most emotional, but Reid saves it from sentimentality by keeping it restrained and, as always, specific. Smith's interactions with Lloyd are the most everyday, but also ultimately the most subtle. Smith's character is an all-American guy, heavily into team sports and betting on them, beer and take-out, but when his affection for the girl is challenged, he reveals fidelity and heroism. There's something really cool about Reid's attention to all these people and his ability to make them seem worth watching. A promising beginning. True in a way as one critic said that Hello Lonesome "really isn't that much of a movie." Even the linking concept is fragile. Are these people lonesome, or aware of being so? Maybe a set of stories like this, to justify their grouping together, ought to explore topics like the distinction between loneliness and solitude. But to say that is not to undercut this writer-director's admirable attentiveness to the particularity of his characters and their worlds. However shaky the construction of the whole this time, the parts are excellent, alive and full of intelligence and humanistic warmth, and they make one want to see more by Adam Reid.

I had to leave fast at the end of an afternoon screening of Hello Lonesome at Cinema Village in New York, before the promised director's Q&A. There were very few people in the room, and the reviews have been somewhat lukewarm, but that should not deter filmgoers from noting this name. Hello Lonesome was in some film festivals in 2010 and opened May 27, 2011 in Manhattan. Seen there in the invaluable little cineplex on Twelfth Street on May 28.

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