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Watched this today at the opening night screening at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Watching it in a packed theater with this audience was a pretty awesome experience. Everyone seemed to have watched Brick and everyone was really paying attention to all the quirky dialogue and laughing at the jokes and having a really great time. I know this sounds like it could be noisy and distracting but it really wasn’t. It was just a theater full of people having fun at the movies. Pretty cool.

Firstly, the film looks really great. Amazing set design, shot in several really gorgeous locations, some really whimsical and unique compositions and lots of color. It definitely reminded me of Wes Anderson films and not just because of the whole Adrien Brody and brothers angle. Secondly, I really do love Rian Johnson’s writing. Here again, I found the language in the film really quite specific. It’s not quite as stylized as the language used in Brick but it still has it’s own unique cadence and I found myself really enjoying listening to the dialogues. Secondly, it’s really really funny. I loved the way he uses both funny lines (sorry _Keith_, I forgot to take a pen and notebook) and visual gags and sometimes both at the same time.

Another big highlight for me was that throughout the film, I was really fascinated by how the film seemed to exist in it’s own particular time. It feels really old-fashioned and like a period film in parts (the costumes, they travel by train and steamer and so on) and really modern at the same time (sports cars and helicopters) and yet, none of this seems incongruous somehow. It has all of the charm of old films (even evoking silent films in parts) and yet feels hip and current.

Similarly, it also doesn’t fit neatly into a genre. It’s a heist film at one level and a love story and a story about siblings all rolled into one. And somehow the whole combination mostly works.

I’ve never been a big fan of Adrien Brody. I don’t dislike him or anything but he never seems to make a big impression on me. But I really liked him in this film. I thought he totally pulled off the hesitant and unsure younger brother thing. I pretty much always enjoy watching Mark Ruffalo and he was fine too. Rachel Weisz is really quite adorable (and I love and covet the clothes she wears in this film) and Rinko Kikuchi’s silent comedy was wonderful to watch.

The film also has a sentimental core that gives it heart and adds some heft to the gags and cons that populate the film.

So it sounds like I had fun with this, right? I did and yet at the end, I was left with a feeling of emptiness. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the film played more like a series of fun stuff rather than a cohesive whole. It was stylish and fun and unique but while I am left with some pretty nice images (I am so bummed about not being able to post screenshots in the random screenshots thread) and fun lines, I wish I had also been left feeling something at the end.

There was a Q&A with the director and I have to say that R. Johnson just seems to be nicest, most down-to-earth director ever. He was dressed really casually and his family (uncle and cousins) were in the audience and they all seemed to be just this fun family. He mentioned that the budget for the film was just under 20 million and I have to say that they definitely did a great job of making the film look a lot more expensive than that. He also seemed genuinely bummed about the fact that he was busy in another location directing the actors when the cars were getting blown up and stuff Cheesy. He mentioned that he was writing the second draft of a script for a science-fiction film that he’s planning next. Seemed like such a swell guy.

Oh and I really want to start using the phrase “Ah, ______. Controversial choice” more often in my everyday conversations.

Grade: B-

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