SXSW Film Festival Day 5

TV Actor Day! 'Frankie Go Boom' + 'See Girl Run'

by Ben Travers

19 March 2012

The fifth day of the film fest found me seeking out my favorite television actors to see how they perform outside their comfortable characters -- results were mixed.
Frankie Go Boom 
cover art

Frankie Go Boom

Director: Jordan Roberts
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Chris O'Dowd, Lizzy Caplan, Ron Perlman, Chris Noth, Whitney Cummings

See Girl Run

Director: Nate Meyer
Cast: Robin Tunney, Adam Scott, Jeremy Strong, William Sadler

Safety Not Guaranteed

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni

First up was Frankie Go Boom, an uneven comedy from first time director Jordan Roberts featuring a pretty impressive cast by my standards. Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy fame (a show I have yet to watch) plays Frank, a generally unlucky individual currently living in Death Valley after a series of unfortunate events. These events were at least partially the fault of Bruce, (Chris O’Dowd, a TV veteran but more well known now for his turn in Bridesmaids as Kristen Wigg’s beau), his brother and a socially naive psuedo-moron who likes to record Frank’s every error.
Instead of exploring the brother’s less-than-brotherly relationship (a la Do-Deca-Pentahlon), Roberts, who also wrote the film, chooses to keep Bruce’s inner thoughts and desires distant from the audience. He’s just the annoying jokester brother that Frank has to put up with because, well, they’re brothers. The audience is much more invested in Frank’s new love interest played by the charming Lizzy Caplan (of Party Down fame). After an awkward first encounter and some ill-advised action by, you guessed it, Bruce, the brothers spend the rest of the movie clamoring to correct the mistake.

Also popping up for the ride is Chris Noth, who is most recently popular for his work on The Good Wife and Law and Order, but for me will always be Mr. Big from Sex and the City. Noth plays a formerly famous actor who inexplicably bonds with Bruce in rehab. Noth is… interesting as a boozy, horny, drug-addicted version of himself (I don’t know what Noth is like offscreen, but I imagine he’d be far from this). Though the man seems game for anything, the script doesn’t give him enough goofy material to truly tap into his character’s possibilities.

I’d say that’s a common issue with the film as a whole. Frankie Go Boom wants to be edgy and unexpected, but feels far too formulaic by its end. It’s difficult to invest in the characters considering the love story feels ill-fated from the get go and the brothers don’t seem to be too worried about reconnecting. It has its moments of humor, especially when Ron Perlman shows up as Bruce’s….. altered former cellmate, but they’re too few and far between.

The same cannot be said for the touching and whimsical Safety Not Guaranteed. My colleague Faith Korpi already covered this extremely well in her Day 2 report, so I won’t spend too much time praising it. That being said, it deserves all the hype it can get. I just heard the fantastic news the film is set for a June 8th release in the US, so I’ll try to remind everyone about it closer to its availability. As for now, let me just say it’s a truly impressive piece of storytelling and features terrific lead performances from Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and, surprisingly, Mark Duplass (The League), who I always saw as a somewhat one-note jokester before this nuanced turn. Keep it in mind for June.

I would not be shocked if Safety Not Guaranteed takes off and becomes the indie hit of summer 2012. However, I would be floored if See Girl Run, featuring Plaza’s Parks and Rec costar Adam Scott, lands on anyone’s theatrical viewing radar. It’s not that the film is poorly made or features bad performances from its cast. It’s simply that Nate Meyer’s anti-rom-com isn’t very fun to watch. In fact, it’s kind of infuriating.

See Girl Run

See Girl Run

Scott plays Jason, a struggling artist still pining for his high school sweetheart. Robin Tunney is Emmie, Jason’s former beau (or current—both characters make a point throughout the movie to mention they never really broke up) and current owner of a doggie day care center in Brooklyn. She’s also married, a fact that neither dampens Jason’s pining or quells Emmie’s desire to reunite with her former/current boyfriend. After Emmie auditions for a reality show based on reintroducing estranged couples, the two former lovers are reconnected. Emmie goes back to her hometown. Will they or won’t they get back together?

A better question would be “Who cares?” Both characters remind me of those pathetic friends who you can’t reason with no matter how self-destructive their ambitions. It’s frustrating to watch unfold, and ultimately unsatisfying in its anti-climactic conclusion. Tunney and Scott both bring an important level of humanity to their roles, but it’s not enough to save See Girl Run from mediocrity. Hopefully both actors will find something more suitable for their significant talents and charming demeanors in future SXSW entries.

So which TV show was best represented by its talent this year? Let’s go to the board!

Film Scorecard:

Parks and Recreation thespians (Aubrey Plaza and Adam Scott):
(9 for Safety + 3 for See Girl Run /2 = 6)

Sons of Anarchy thespians (Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman):

The Good Girl thespians (See Girl Run costars Josh Hamilton and Jeremy Strong both appeared briefly on Girl along with Chris Noth):
(3 for See Girl Run + 5 for Frankie Go Boom /2 = 4)

And the winner is Parks and Recreation! I should have known the best TV show would win.

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