Tribeca: Moon Party Report And Review
Last night I took off my standard-issue blogger sweatpants, brushed my hair for the first time in days, and joined the real world at an after party for Moon, Duncan Jones' spooky sci-fi movie starring Sam Rockwell as a lonely lunar miner. The movie premiered at Sundance but has also been getting great buzz at Tribeca in advance of its June 12 release from Sony Pictures Classics.
As for the party, it was held in an underground catacomb-type place (975 Bar) that might have been an old meat locker, given its location in the Meatpacking District. Also, there was a table reserved for Sting. No seriously!
Because Moon is typical sci-fi in that it twists in directions you don't expect, but very atypical sci-fi in that the gadgets and robots aren't really part of the story at all. The movie is entirely about Sam, the miner who is near the end of his three-year deployment on the moon, and is nearly out of his mind with his desire to get back to his wife and kid. His only company these three long years has been Gerty, a barely anthropomorphized robot who speaks in the calming, authoritative voice of Kevin Spacey. Even the live communication link to earth has been disabled, meaning the only contact Sam has with humans is pre-recorded messages.
Suddenly, step by step, things start to go wrong. Checking on one of the mining devices Sam crashes the rover, and wakes up back on the base, tended to by Gerty, good as new. But soon it seems his replacement has arrived early, a replacement who looks exactly like him. And the communication snafu that has cut him off from Earth all these years might not be what it seems.
Even when the story falters a bit, lingering on twists that we've long seen coming and glossing over other key pieces of information, the technical accomplishments of Moon are consistently dazzling. Made for less than $5 million, the movie is utterly convincing with its lunar setting, a mining outpost that's both pull of technological power but also a little dingy and worn out. And it's hard to talk about Rockwell's performance without spoiling things, but suffice it to say the indie actor already known for powerful performances really puts himself over the top here. His character vacillates constantly between complete confidence and despair, and Rockwell is along for every mood shift, every new revelation. The movie, in its plot inconsistencies and slightly wishy-washy ending, could have fallen apart with Rockwell, but instead remains mesmerizing throughout.
As with so many almost-great movies I've seen at Tribeca, Moon is the director's debut, and all the more stunning for it. Jones not only has the chops to make a great director, he's got the ideas, the interest in the inner workings of personality and memory and nostalgia that has made great fodder for movies for the last 100 years. Rockwell's gamble on a first-time director obviously paid off, and hopefully Jones can take lessons from Moon, recalibrate, and prepare to dazzle us again. And I'm not just saying that because of the free martinis.
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