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Tribeca Film Festival 2012: Comedy

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival

Photograph: Glen Wilson
The Five-Year Engagement

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival

2 Days in New York

A Parisian by birth and a now-former New Yorker by choice, Julie Delpy understands firsthand the differences between the two cities’—and their nations’—cultures; that fact alone, however, doesn’t necessarily qualify her to make a penetrating comedy out of their clashes. Having mined the comic potential of an uptight Manhattanite traipsing around the City of Light in 2007’s 2 Days in Paris, the hyphenate star now reverses locales: Delpy’s expat Marion is back in le Apple Grande, living in a lovely midtown apartment with her new boyfriend (an impressive Chris Rock), a fellow journalist from the Village Voice. (Their editorial beats are never specified; as they both still seem to be employed, one can assume that neither are film critics.) Everything is peachy, until Marion’s kooky father (real-life Delpy père Albert), her nympho-exhibitionist frenemy sister (Alexia Landeau) and her sibling’s hipster d-bag boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon) show up for an extended visit. Phrases are misunderstood! Tolerance for Euro-libertine ways are tested! Tame encounters turn into terrifying humiliations, because the French are, like, so crazy! With its wry voiceovers and jaunty vintage jazz on the soundtrack, Delpy’s comedy strongly resembles another writer-director’s tales of neurotic New Yorkers, though you should forgive, or at least forget, that venal sin; if everybody who borrowed from Woody Allen were arrested, two thirds of today’s filmmakers would be in jail. It’s when the tone switches fro

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Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal: movie review

Question: If you’re a famous Danish painter (Keep the Lights On’s Thure Lindhardt) with a serious case of the creative doldrums, how do you reconnect with your muse? Answer: You shack up with and exploit a mute student (Dylan Smith) who has a somnambulistic urge for snacking on human flesh. Boris Rodriguez’s semi-splatter satire halfheartedly gnaws on targets—intercollegiate pettiness, small-town prejudices, the art world’s vapid fickleness—that have been eviscerated elsewhere with more bite. Allegedly a horror-comedy, it’s neither comic nor, despite several scenes of a bloodied Smith in his tighty-whities, particularly horrifying; as its title suggests, this is more of a self-conscious attempt to court quirky cult-film status. Nice try.

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The Five-Year Engagement

All engaged couples go through rough patches on their journey toward walking down the aisle; for Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt), the road gets especially rocky. No sooner have the two lovebirds announced their nuptials than a career opportunity for the would-be bride forces a relocation from the Bay Area to Minnesota. Wedding plans are put on indefinite hold; as the years go on, resentments build up, emotional funk gives way to god-awful facial hair, and arguments become increasingly nasty. Can these two overcome the obstacles put before them? And exactly how many misfiring jokes about pantsless males can a film make?  Like a mug of chamomile tea spiked with a dropper of cheap vodka, Nicholas Stoller’s relationship-roller-coaster comedy has hints that something stronger and slightly edgier might lie beneath its smooth surface: Characters lace casual conversations with conspicuously creative cock references (did you know cold weather will give you “baby dick”?), drunken sex may involve being hard-slapped with deli meats, and just because you’re in a rom-com doesn’t mean you can’t lose a toe to frostbite. But don’t be fooled by the foulmouthery: This is the same old safe, sappy movie that shows up on TBS every weekend, the kind that would never let a few gratuitous dirty lines of dialogue or “frank” moments keep it from lulling viewers with platitudes about the power of love. What this wilting, wobbly look at premarital pitfalls really signals, however, is that the

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The Giant Mechanical Man

Writer-director Lee Kirk digs himself an enormous robot-sized hole with the dreadful title of his first feature, in which a silver-sprayed street performer (Chris Messina) starts acting the part of a dehumanized, if fairly normal-size, mechanical gent. But a winsome, though clunky, romance mercifully sidelines the obvious symbolism to focus on the lost-soul bond between this would-be man machine and an adrift ex–temp worker (Jenna Fischer) as both find work in a Detroit zoo. Kirk, who wed Fischer in 2010, perfectly captures her all-thumbs charm, and ubiquitous character actor Messina steps into the lead with ease, showing off some impressive mime skills to boot. Follow Sam Adams on Twitter: @SamuelAAdams

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Jackpot

The huge and unexpected success of ‘Headhunters’ has presumably led directly to the UK release of this lesser Norwegian crime comedy, also based on source material by the country’s foremost thriller writer Jo Nesbø. But while that earlier film delivered a freshness to its tale of seriously ugly people doing seriously nasty things, ‘Jackpot’ fails to bring anything new to an over-familiar tale of greed and betrayal. When Oscar (Kyrre Hellum) and his workmates win 1.7 million krone on the pools, they naturally throw a party to celebrate. So why does Oscar wake up next morning to find himself face-down in a pool of blood in the local porn shop, surrounded by corpses and cops? There’s nothing in ‘Jackpot’ which doesn’t feel secondhand: the interview-room flashback structure echoes ‘The Usual Suspects’; the characters could have wandered out of almost any mid-’90s smalltown US indie (think ‘Fargo’ or ‘Red Rock West’); and the greed-kills plotline is inspired by everything from ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ to ‘A Simple Plan’. That said, the film is enjoyable enough in a low-key way. Hellum makes for a likeably hapless and pitiable lead, and his relationship with smarter-than-he-looks cop Solør (Henrik Mestad) is wonderfully sly. Director Magnus Martens punctuates proceedings with moments of black humour and sudden, shocking violence, while the sheer frequency of twists, double-crosses and switchbacks keep the plot rattling along. But even the breakneck pace can’t compensate for a

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Lola Versus

A young woman tries to get back into the swing of single life when her fiance dumps her shortly before their wedding.

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Struck by Lightning

Let’s say you walked into a room full of Glee fans and told them that the show’s one and only Chris Colfer—the multitalented actor and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People—had a film coming out. Not only does Colfer star in it, he also wrote it. Oh, and the movie takes place in a high school—not one in which the students warble Journey tunes at the drop of a glittery hat, but still. The air would be filled with the sound of cars peeling out of driveways, as his devotees (the ones actually old enough to drive, mind you) and their Colfer-curious friends rushed to check out this opus as soon as humanly possible. Now imagine that you peek in on these same folks as they watch this story about a smart, ambitious but stifled student who’s immediately killed by a freak act of nature—see title—and posthumously recounts how everyone on campus despised him. If they’re totally unfamiliar with the Heathers school of pitch-black teen satire, they may think the character’s plan to blackmail students to join his literary magazine is, like, edgy. They’ll fidget as a host of other actors, from Bachelorette’s Rebel Wilson to Allison Janney, try to add something resembling actual comedy or drama to the mix, only to be undermined by so much half-baked pathos and so many DOA barbs (“I hate you more than I hate the Holocaust!”). Then observe as all but the hard-core Colferphiles slink out embarrassed, feeling as confused and discombobulated as if they too just took an electric bolt to the brai

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Supporting Characters

Two film editors (Alex Karpovsky, Tarik Lowe) attempt to finish a troubled movie by a petulant director (Kevin Corrigan) while navigating the ups and downs of their relationships with unhappy girlfriends. Daniel Schechter’s modest but surprisingly deft indie doesn’t skimp on comedy as it details the protagonists’ professional and personal dilemmas, with an attention to the self-destructive contradictions that often drive people. The fictional filmmaker’s rejection of “quirkiness” ends up, ironically, being embraced by the movie itself, but even at its most sitcomish, Karpovsky and Lowe’s banter has a contentious authenticity that recognizes these industry grunts as vital and three-dimensional—no matter their nominal supporting status. Follow Nick Schager on Twitter: @nschager

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