Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 10:17 am 
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FABIO FREY: MY DEAD DAD (2021) - Mill Valley Film Festival



A laid back West Coast coming of ager with a knack for bro talk

Fabio Frey and his Peruvian-American lead actor Pedro Correa did the writing and they have a knack for bro talk, which the young actors know how to deliver. They are skateboarders, including old pal Kieffer (Booboo Stewart), and not-very-bereaved son Lucas (Correa) is back in the LA of his youth, from Reno, to deal with the unwanted inheritance of said dead dad's apartment complex. Lucas, like the actor presumably, is half Latino (on his father's side) but he says he guesses you wind up looking like the parent you spent most of your time with, and that in his case was his mother. He is blond and can't speak Spanish.

Beside the smooth capture of youthful attitudes the other thing that won my approval early on is the handsome cinematography, which makes LA tackiness look gorgeous and richly colored without seeming touristy or kitsch.

The action, well, that isn't very urgent. There is a girl, whom Lucas thinks of taking away from her older boyfriend whom, unconscionably, she is about to marry. Lucas is also going to be dealing with the building manager/janitor Frank (vet Raymond Cruz) and his uncle Tommy (vet Steven Bauer), whose willingness to help him sell the place with a dubious lawyer seems to be due to money troubles. He has to decide if he is going to sell the place, and this decision will be affected by his evolving understanding of who his father was and what he was like. It's a kind of coming of age by understanding the estranged father.

They're not quite as good at doing some of the non-'bro people (in the writing; the veteran actors can't be faulted). An adorable old Asian lady (Shu Lan Tuan)seems a bit concockted. Her purpose is to show what a nice guy Lucas's dead dad was as others are there to show how much he cared about him, a fact concealed from the boy due to his mother's misguided protectiveness. As Frank, Cruz subtly oscillates between kind and disapproving, and as Uncle Tommy, Bauer conveys a wired desperation.

Lucas, who is disdainful of the whole situation at first, thinks selling the building is a no-brainer. But it's not like he has another more interesting set of things to do back in Reno. The trajectory will be toward seeing things as more complicated.

Temporary plumbing and automotive crises aside, none of Dead Dad's action seems particularly urgent, but that's the beauty of it. The girls says Lucas is super-intense, but nobody else really is and the movie itself never strains. These guys give the impression of knowing what they're doing as filmmakers from minute to minute , and their strength is their being relaxed about whatever it is they're trying to prove. Everyone is well cast. Everybody tends to seem nice without being saccharine, which, when you think about it, is another rare accomplishment. The aim is not to put Lucas in harm's way but to gently wake him up.

A nice beginning; an enjoyable watch. I would like to see more by Frey and Correa.

My Dead Dad, 133 mins., debuted at Woodstock Oct. 1, 2021, Mill Valley Oct. 17, Austin Oct. 22.

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