Sundance Review: Arlen Faber
This year Iím seeing a lot of personal stories being put up on screen by writer/directors. Arlen Faber is likely to be the best one shown here at Sundance, or at least that Iíve seen. Admittedly I have a bias towards the material Ė a writer recluse who wrote a book about Godís answers to him never believed in a higher power and finds himself struggling to come back to the world Ė but that doesnít mean what John Hindman has done in his first feature film is anything short of a heartfelt shout to the world that even those who appear to have the answers are as lost as the rest of us. Arlen Faber is a comedy, which is evident in the myriad ways Jeff Daniels can contort his face or snort in exasperation. Perhaps a little too simple for its own good, the film still manages to resonate just that little bit with anyone who searched for answers.
Arlen (Jeff Daniels) wrote Me & God 20 years ago, and it changed the way the world saw spirituality. Today the man has never done an interview, never made an appearance, and has simply avoided the world. On the surface itís clear Arlen doesnít like the fame the book has granted him, but he also struggles with the act of convincing others he has answers from the Big Man himself. When Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci), a local bookstore owner, gets out of rehab he searches for answers from a reluctant Faber. Elizabeth (Lauren Graham) is a single mother who meets the author after he crawls, literally, into her office to have his back fixed. Itís these two people, so desperately in search of answers to everything, who pull Arlen back into the world.
Amidst the comedy and a few Faber tirades in regards to his fame is a story about how weíre all searching for answers. Itís ironic that the most poignant part of the film is also the sole disappointment. Not because itís too preachy, or heavy handed. Arlen Faber resides too far in the comedic realm to deliver its core emotional message. John Hindmanís first film is a joy to watch, but it too doesnít have the answers weíre looking for.
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