So it's been over a month ago now, but I did in fact make it to the 31st Cleveland International Film Festival. Unfortunately I didn't have more time than a day to devote to it - but I did get in four films, as well as some low-key vacation time, so I consider the trip a success. Moreover, I enjoyed the films as a whole. There were a ton I wish I could have been in town to see, but so it goes.
I intended to post about all the films at once, but once I got done with the first, I realized I went on longer than I thought I would. So I decided to break it up. Hey, instant post topics for the rest of the week!
Deadpan Valentine (2006, dir. Robin Lindsey). Dark comedy and British comedy - my two favorite types. So with both of those attributes, it didn't take much to charm me into seeing this film, which turned out to be basically a funny, sweet little movie. It seemed to connect really well with the audience, which unfortunately included the hungover girl next to me who kept burping beer fumes and making helpful comments to the characters on screen. We were stuck in the very first row - maybe she just thought that, being so close, they could actually hear her. I'm sure every one else in the audience, however, was reasonably sober and intelligent enough that their evidence of approval can be taken more seriously.
As for the film itself, it's all about Jamie, a chronically depressed ex-stand-up-comedian, who hasn't left his apartment in two weeks and who decides that Valentine's Day is finally the perfect day to commit suicide - and about his roommate, Scott, an actor who spends most of his time styling and posturing like a combination of James Dean and Marlon Brando. As Jamie is failing comically in a series of attempts to off himself, he's interrupted by by a hysterical, gun-wielding Bruce, who is convinced Scott is having an affair with his girlfriend and ends up holding Jamie hostage. While the set-up is a bit fantastic, it doesn't matter because the focus is on the characters, cutting back and forth between Jamie and Bruce's own private miseries, and the misery that Scott inflicts upon pretty much everyone else around him. It comes down to the rich topics of identity and happiness and late-20's malaise, and, of course, love, and does a interesting job of depicting all the sorts of confusion those topics can create.
Deadpan definitely has dark, serious matters running underneath it the entire time, but up until the end, it treats them comically - not lightly or callously, but with a dryness and a distance that is just as effective than directness. When the end comes, with Jamie's epiphany and re-dedication to his life - well, it's just not funny, and becomes almost maudlin. Is it too brutal of me to wonder how someone who fully appreciated the sarcastic humor of the movie's first three quarters could suddenly turn all heartfelt and sincere? The shift was jarring to me. It's also just plain depressing, because with the laughter gone, you see clearly that none of the characters are really that much better off, and in fact some are much worse.
All in all, though, I thought it was great first-time independent effort. It's the type of film you go to festivals to see and enjoy.
Oh, and I don't have the slightest bit of a crush on Jamie. Not at all.