TRIBECA: Suburban Girl, Blue State, Autism: The Musical

By Brendan Butler 2007-04-30 23:28:10discussion comments
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This is the sixth installment of the Tribeca film festival and my first time covering it. In fact, it’s my first time covering and reviewing any films, period. I usually chill over in CB Music, which rocks by the way.

So far, I can honestly say I’m enjoying this movie thing. It’s hard to beat sitting in a blackened, air-conditioned movie theater while looking around and murmuring to yourself, “Oh yeah, it’s Monday morning.”

This is the first set of film festival reviews I’ll be submitting. First, there's a romantic comedy of sorts starring two people we’ve been dying to see hook up for decades: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin. Then, Breckin Meyer takes Anna Paquin on his second road trip experience, only it’s political. And finally, kids with autism find a way to connect by creating and starring in their very own musical.

My movie reviewing cherry gets popped right about … now.



For previous Tribeca reports, click here

[MOVIE REVIEWS]

Suburban Girl (Encounters: Drama/Romance)

Writer/Director: Marc Klein
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alec Baldwin, Chris Carmack, Maggie Grace

“He’s not my father, he’s my boyfriend; I have sex with him!”

T.S. Eliot once said that “most editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.” This quip is supposed to sooth Brett Eisenberg (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a young editor for a New York publishing powerhouse, in the film Suburban Girl.

When she’s not placing the books she edited slap dab in the front of book store windows, Brett doodles, hangs with her frisky buddy Chloe (Maggie Grace), has long phone conversations with her father and waits for calls, or at least a postcard, from her traveling boyfriend Jed (Chris Carmack). What the young woman needs is a man, and she sure finds one in Archie Knox (Alec Baldwin), a walking quote dispenser who’s an affluent, influential editor/writer who gazes at Brett like she’s prime veal.

There is early reluctance for the two to date, but once Brett effortlessly breaks ties with Jed, they sizzle into each other’s good graces. Brett’s so smitten with him that she neglects to button the upper half of her shirt on their first date (hey, it happens). As we soon learn, however, Archie has unresolved daughter issues and Brett has unresolved daddy issues, resulting in a match made in Freudian heaven.

Some might find the pairing of Gellar and Baldwin sort of, how should we say, gross. That’s the initial feeling, yet as the reel rolls on, it’s not inconceivable why these two would be drawn to each other. She’s young, filled with hope, obviously attractive and smart, even though she still talks like Buffy. She rapidly falls under his spell because he’s strong yet nurturing, suave yet sensitive and can pull more strings than a mariachi band. Although his experience does come into intimidating play when she discovers his past improprieties during an alpha chick altercation with her boss, that’s miniscule among the hurdles they face.

Suburban Girl, based on Melissa Bank’s short stories “My Old Man” and “The Worst Thing A Suburban Girl Could Imagine,” and adapted/directed by Marc Klein, is what happens when we grind together The Devil Wears Prada and ‘Sex And The City’ and de-spice it for the Lifetime network. This results in a pleasant enough watch, with solid performances by both Baldwin and Gellar, a snappy soundtrack and zingy one liners. It should have no problem getting pushed through mainstream theatres relatively soon. Its falling is that it wants to be more poignant than it is, which is something that should have been contemplated further in the editing room.




Blue State (Discovery: Political Dramedy)

Writer/Director: Marshall Lewy
Cast: Breckin Meyer, Anna Paquin

“Mom, you know I’m a vegetarian.”
“Are you really still doing that?”


Road Trip star Breckin Meyer is now looking to take a different kind of road trip--one that will free him of the straining conservative mindset of America and help him take a stand against the apathetic status quo of most Americans. And if he can get a little female action on the way, hey, a martyr like him is as entitled as anyone.

In Blue State, set in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Meyer plays John Logue, an enthusiastic Kerry supporter who travels from door to door to persuade Ohio voters to take a left turn at the polls. At a pre-election party, he’s so optimistic about the Democrats’ chances that he proudly exclaims that if Bush wins a second term, he’ll move to Canada. In the next scene, he screams at Kerry giving his concession speech on television.

With pressure from the small readership at his “Donkey Revolution” blog to follow through on his promise, and the loss of his job and girlfriend, he decides to flee gorgeous San Francisco for Winnipeg, where there’s an organization to help settle American “refugees.” But before all that, first he needs a travel companion.

Cue Anna Paquin as Chloe, a mysterious blue-haired cutie whose suspicious mannerisms are either lost on or ignored by John due to his attraction to her. Paquin has proven previously in 25th Hour and The Squid And The Whale that she has this alluring quality that makes even the most intellectual man’s tongue droop to the floor. Without hesitation, they’re off to the land up north.

On their journey, they make an awkward pit stop at John’s parents’ house, who are not only strict conservatives but downright crazy. His father is brainwashed by right-wing radio (John listens to “Air America” and his own CD mix of Bushisms), so in a heated argument he yells “get off my show, next caller!”.

Josh and Chloe do what most people do in road trip movies--they discover themselves and each other. Blue State, even when relying on many romantic clichés, takes it a step further by having its characters discover their own national identity too. And, despite some inefficient leadership they hate with uncompromising fury, they are happy Americans.




Autism: The Musical (Discovery: Documentary)

Director: Tricia Regan
Cast: Eleven autistic kids working together on a musical

Wyatt: “I think you’re really smart.”
Henry: “I always wanted to hear that.”


Autism is a prime example of a growing problem that doesn’t go away by not paying attention to it. One in 10,000 kids were afflicted with the condition just over a decade ago; now the numbers stand in at an alarming one in 166. It’s time for everybody to take note of this and evaluate the potential causes of the increase. As sad as it is, there is a growing likelihood that you’ll have a child or grandchild with autism someday. And guess what, there’s no cure--it’s who they are.

Autism: The Musical is a heart-wrenching and heart-warming documentary about Elaine Hall, a woman who seeks to put on a play written and performed by 11 autistic children in Los Angeles. Inspired by her adopted son Neil, who speaks only through a typing machine, Elaine vies to dispel myths in society about autistics: how they’re dim, unloving, mean, uncommunicative, and so on. After seeing this film, learning about these precious people and their families, it’s safe to say she did a heck of a job.

The main cast consists of Lexi (the shy one with a pretty singing voice), Henry (a hyper kid with Asperger's syndrome who adores dinosaurs and reptiles), Adam (the cello player who has a way with women) and Wyatt (the philosopher of the group and who has bully problems). It should be obvious they’re not setting out to hit Broadway here; this is an attempt, rather, to open up their world, to exercise inspiration and confidence-boosting socializing activities. And to, of course, bring the autistic community closer together as a whole.

On top of showing the kids preparing for the show, the documentary illuminates the issues an autistic child can bring upon a family, such as marital turmoil and heightened depression. Not to mention the fears the parents face over how the kid will manage when they’re not around one day to take care of them.

The dialogue the film opens is as vivid and fierce as any hot-button topic in our country today. This Tricia Regan-directed movie, which is both fun and sad in spirit, will gather a lot of attention from the public, and just might widen a few weary eyes.

[STAY TUNED]

More Tribeca coverage is on the way. Check back regularly at CinemaBlend.com for coverage throughout the festival. We've got plenty more in store.


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