by Phil Mann
NATURAL SELECTION is a natural selection by the Tropic’s film programmer. Winner of seven awards at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, including Best Narrative Feature, and nominated for Best First Feature and Best Female Lead at the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards, it’s the kind of un-Hollywood movie that you depend on the Tropic to bring here.
It’s a breakout role for Rachael Harris (a nagging wife in The Hangover) who for the first time moves from supporting character roles to a lead, responsible for carrying the film. She’s Linda, an earnest, dutiful, religious woman who can’t produce the child she wants. Her husband (John Diehl) is also a dedicated Christian, so dedicated that he will not sleep with his wife because it would spill his seed. Instead, unbeknownst to her, he makes good use of it as a regular donor at a sperm bank, while watching porn movies. (What would Ric Santorum say?)
That’s just the setup, because this is really a road movie, about Linda’s quest to find one of her husband’s children, a boy conceived with some of his sperm-banked deposits. Don’t expect a Hallmark conclusion. No cute tyke, the now grown son (Matt O’Leary) is a 23-year-old dirtbag ex-con on the lam. But Linda is bound and determined to bring him home, making them one of the oddest road movie couples in history.
“A small gem of an indie movie whose rewards far exceed its bare-bones budget.” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) “A coming-of-age portrait of a sweet, innocent, middle-aged Christian woman who bursts through the confines of a sexless marriage.” (Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle )
THE MATCHMAKER takes us to Israel in 1968, when that country was reveling in its Six-Day War triumph and rumors of the American free love generation were wafting over from abroad. Teen-aged Arik finds a job with Yankele, a petty crook with a sideline in finding love matches for undesirable mates. The boy’s duty is to spy on potential matches, to make sure they don’t have hidden flaws. Yankele, played by well-known Israeli comic Adir Miller, dominates the movie, but it is really a coming of age story about Arik, who learns about life from the crafty Yankele and a cast of supporting characters including a troupe of dwarfs. “A memory play gold-dusted with adolescent longing and a strong sense of fable…” (John Anderson, Variety)
If all this is too much for you, the Tropic’s “Summertime is Easy” lighter fare is in full swing. This week brings PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS in 3D and 3 STOOGES.
Pirates is the latest stop-action animation from British Aardman Animations (Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit) a wild tale of a dastardly crew trying to win the “Pirate of the Year” award. “The movie is a curiosity cabinet of visual pleasures but so breezy and lightly funny that you may not realize at first how good it is.” (Manohla Dargis, New York Times) “No one else has come close to translating England's homegrown blend of deadpan and madcap for a younger audience, much less with such impressive Claymated technique. You couldn't ask for a better lesson in Anglo-Absurdism for Beginners." (David Fear, Time Out New York)
Stooges is the latest from the Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter (Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, There’s Something About Mary). Who better to pay homage to these masters of stupid slapstick? A poke in the eye, a bash over the head with a sledge hammer, all in good fun, in this “a respectful, heartfelt, and entertaining tribute to the eternal trio.” (Jaime Christley, Slant Magazine) Even the New Yorker’s David Denby, not known for his sense of humor, admits “the movie is so infantile that it achieves a special kind of purity and gentleness.”
THE HUNGER GAMES and CHIMPANZEE are held over.
And watch out for Hannibal Lechter! The Monday Mystery Classic is THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Local writer and mystery maven Hy Conrad will introduce.